York County

$6 million renovation to start at York County Courthouse

County Council votes against automatic raises

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 23, 2013 

— Asbestos and lead-based paint soon will be cleared from the York County Courthouse in York, making way for a $6 million renovation project to begin.

The County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved contracting with ECS Carolinas – an environmental engineering and testing company – to create a plan for environmental clean-up at the century-old courthouse.

The building is slated for major renovations expected to be finished around December 2015.

The renovations have been delayed for several years because the county changed architects in 2011 and could not borrow money for the project after a spending proposal failed to gain public support.

Money for the renovations was designated in 2008 to come from the county’s construction projects budget.

After years of waiting, County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said he’s glad to see the progress on courthouse renovations.

“This has kind of been on the slow track,” he said. “We really need to get this in high gear now before I get another call from another judge.”

The courthouse must be empty before renovations can begin.

Most of the courthouse functions and employees have been moved to new spaces owned by the county. Some offices and employees are in temporary spaces, waiting to reoccupy the courthouse.

The county is spending $11,000 per month in rent for those offices and the court functions that are waiting to move back into the York courthouse.

Probate court and master in equity court functions are in temporary spaces and were relocated at least 14 years ago, before discussion of the current renovations began. Those courts were moved then, said Assistant County Engineer Rebecca Bowyer, because they did not have enough space.

Those two courts will move back when renovations are finished. The county pays $7,800 each month to lease spaces for those court functions.

The Clerk of Court’s Civil Division moved out of the courthouse in June 2011 and will move back when work is finished. The county pays $3,300 per month to house the employees and offices off-site.

The amount of money spent on rent while waiting on renovations, Blackwell said, is “troubling.”

“It’s even more reason for us to get in high gear about this,” he said.

ECS Carolinas is familiar with the courthouse environmental issues, Bowyer said, and should finish the asbestos and lead-based paint clean-up plan quickly.

Another contractor will be hired to remove the hazardous materials at an estimated cost of less than $200,000.

Although the project has hit unexpected roadblocks, she said, the “wheels are turning.”

Council salaries rejected

In other action Tuesday, council members eliminated a provision that gives the council an automatic pay raise when they vote to give county employees a salary increase.

The law has been on the books since 1996.

All members voted in favor of striking down the salary increase on Tuesday except for District 4 representative Bump Roddey.

York County’s salary for elected council members is already lower than many other counties in the state, Roddey said. He estimates that council members make 50cents per hour.

Tying a 1.5 percent salary increase for the council to the increases for county employees, Roddey said, is important for York County to stay on track with other local governments.

Blackwell was vocal on his campaign trail last year about not taking any pay raise while in office. He doesn’t like the idea of council members giving themselves increases without voting for the pay raise “in public,” he said.

In the future, council members can vote to give themselves a salary increase, Blackwell said.

“But I’d like to add a little bit of transparency.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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