A team of three men from Fort Scott-based Mid Continental Restoration has done all the restoration of the exterior of the century-old Barton County Courthouse, come hell or hot weather.
“These are the guys who have done all the hard work,” County Administrator Phil Hathcock told county commissioners Monday morning. He gave an update on the project as he introduced trio from Mid Continental.
“They are almost complete with the outside of it,” he said. The $160,126 project that started in April should be wrapped up by the middle of next week.
Hathcock went through a brief slide show highlighting some of the many repairs that have been made. As he spoke, Johnny Perez, head of the crew, was at his side.
They have replaced roughly three quarters of the mortar in the building with a urethane calking, fixed holes in the plaster and moulding, repainted the oxidized windows frames and have only portion of the south side to finish painting.
“We’ve done a lot of patching,Perez said. But, “there were no hidden surprises. It was all pretty basic.”
“I can’t say enough good things about Mid Continental,” Hathcock said, noting that when it was hot, they worked through the night to stay cooler. “The courthouse is looking really nice.”
“We are confident it is repaired,” Perez said. The calking and the nearly 400 gallons of rubbery exterior paint should last for decades to come.
The exterior was last repainted in 1984 and some minor repair work was performed in the 1990s, all done by Mid Continental. Since that time, very little additional maintenance has been done to the outside, county officials noted.
However, it was during an architectural study done last spring that WDM Architects of Wichita noted the exterior is in need of repair and moisture was seeping into the building. laster was popping off and falling from the inside walls on the fourth floor, and some of the decorative features are cracking and falling of the exterior. These, and other problems, were caused by the water.
So, the county officials hired Mid Continental to power wash, replace caulking, repair failed mortar joints and trim work and apply two coats of sealant coating.
This is the first of a multi-phase project to get this building where it needs to be, county officials have said. The exterior had to be fixed first.
The building turned 100 years old last year and is showing its age, and the county has been studying ways to restore it for some time.
In February of last year, a crew from Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita took soil samples. WDM was hired to do an architectural study and structural analysis to determine what needs to be done, and it contracted with PEC to do the coring.
WDM had already looked at the interior of the courthouse and a report outlining recommendations was submitted to county officials. Referring to this report, officials said the new roof and the structural issues will likely be at the top of the list.
The four corners of the courthouse have begun to separate from the center of the building, causing cracks to form and plaster to fall on the fourth floor. Repairs done in the past, including turnbuckles installed to pull the corner walls together, are proving to be unsuccessful.
Years of settling is part of the issue. But, WDM believed water running off the roof is softening the soil and expediting the deterioration.
That is why the drainage had to be corrected, officials said. County crews have already cleaned some drain pipes and rerouted some downspouts to channel water away from the building.
As for the structure, water has been seeping into the building and this has caused on-going problems. Work done by Mid Continental should solve most of these.
There is also a window in the commission chambers cracking due to settling. In addition, there have been pipes burst and other issues.
Construction actually started in November of 1917 and it was expected to be done by November of 1918. The start of the project was delayed at first because the previous courthouse built on the same site in 1874-75 had not been razed on time.
By Dec. 18, 1918, the courthouse was finished. The first trial, a divorce case, had taken place the day before.
The original building had an outside staircase leading up to what was considered the first floor. That was removed in 1952.
Barton County Commission meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:
• Accepted the resignation of Dennis Poland from as the Union Township Board treasurer. The commission also appointed ????? to fill the vacancy.
• Approved the placement of a stop sign at the intersection of NE 230 Road and NE 90 Avenue seven miles northeast of Beaver on the Russell County line in Beaver Township. County Engineer Barry McManaman made the placement determination as sight distance is limited by trees.
• Heard an update on the courthouse restoration project. The exterior of the courthouse is currently being cleaned, resealed and painted by Mid Continental Restoration from Fort Scott.
• Approved a vehicle for the County Works Department.
The department has researched options related to the replacement of a 2007 Chevy 2500HD. Specifications for replacement included a four-wheel drive truck with a crew cab and tow package. The bid best meeting the needs of the department was provided by Marmies for a 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Big Horn Crew Cab 4X4 at a cost of $35,699, County Works Director Darren Williams said.