County begins planning for costly courthouse upgrades

Bartholomew County is looking at an estimated repair bill of $3 million to fix the failing heating and cooling system in the county courthouse.

The county commissioners agreed yesterday to a contract with Strand Associates to act as the project engineers, providing the designs for the new system, preparing the project for bidding and overseeing the work, among other duties.

Strand will also prepare alternative plans to make the building code-compliant including sprinklers, ductwork, fire barriers and other features.

The current HVAC system was installed mostly in the 1990s according to Strand and much of it is in bad shape. The envisioned project would tear out and replace the chilling and hot water lines and replace individual air handling units. County Commissioners President Tony London said that will involve tearing into the walls, floors and ceilings of the building at an “astronomical” cost.

London also pointed out that the courthouse, built in the 1870s, was never designed for modern HVAC.

The goal is to have the project design finished in the next few months and the project itself finished by the fall of next year.

Commissioners approved the contract for about $339,500 with Strand Monday. The money will come from COVID relief funds, said County Auditor Pia O’Connor. The project costs will go through the regular budget process with the County Council.