As Christmas lights blinked outside the York County Courthouse on Monday, the plan to restore the historic building may have come together next door.
Cumming Construction Management, the firm hired by the York County Council to consult on the project, updated council members Monday on the status of restoration work for the century-old courthouse, which has been closed for years while modern renovation work takes place.
At the same meeting, the council reached an agreement with the architects who will provide the design work for the courthouse renovations, although that produced some discussion of whether designs would fit with Cumming’s vision of the project.
Cumming executive James Britton told the council his company would not directly handle the construction needs surrounding the courthouse, but it will manage the project risks from the design phase through closeout. Cumming already has met with county officials and historical groups to discuss its vision for the courthouse, and the company hopes to give the council monthly updates throughout the process.
“We like to think we work from cradle to grave,” Britton said. “And when it’s finished, we don’t walk away.”
Britton also went over different models of funding the project. He said a “vertical integration,” where the architectural firm works under the contractor would be advantageous, but since work on the courthouse has already begun under a design drawn up independently, Cumming would recommend a “design/build” model as the most efficient way to move forward.
“Vertical integration would normally be the most cost-effective,” Britton said. “That’s what we would recommend if we were starting from scratch.”
Stewart Cooper Newell Architects of Gastonia, N.C., already provided architectural design services for phase one of the project last year, when crews began work removing plaster, mold and asbestos from the interior walls of the courthouse. The architectural agreement approved by the council Monday would cover design development, construction management, and bidding and negotiation for a fixed fee of $475,000, plus a reimbursable allowance of $6,000 to cover printing and travel costs.
Councilman Chad Williams expressed reservations about the agreement, since one architectural expert who looked at the courthouse had informally suggested a vertical model would save around $2 million, but the county never received a concrete proposal spelling out how.
“I’d hate for us to say we were going to do that and not at least investigate it,” Williams said. “But at the same time, I don’t want us to get further behind.”
The largely interior work that needs to be done on the courthouse won’t be adversely affected by bypassing a vertical model, Britton said.
“We’re not going to paint it pink,” he said. “There are only certain things that need to be done with the windows, some historical elements and the heating and air.”
The architects set a “substantial completion” date for the construction of the summer of 2016.
Cumming will seek to pre-qualify a group of contractors before the bidding process starts by working with historical groups, Britton said.
The courthouse project had been in limbo when an estimated completion cost of $11.2 million exceeded the amount budgeted by the council for the project by some $6 million. Cumming later provided the county with an estimate that shaved $2 million off that number, and recommended continuing the renovation work as a cheaper alternative to building a new courthouse somewhere else.
Cumming also will provide consulting work for construction of York County’s new Fire Training Center on McFarland Road.