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Courthouse on track for bicentennial festivities

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

The renovation of Haywood County’s historic courthouse is halfway complete, and things continue to move along smoothly — for the most part.

Granite has been brought in from Mt. Airy to lay in the courthouse. The interior walls are all down, the roof is going up, and drywall will be hung in the next couple weeks.

Lately, though, there have been some bumps in the road for the project. The contractor, KMD of Salisbury, is currently 45 to 60 days behind the scheduled completion date of May 21, said County Manager David Cotton.

“It’s beyond the scope (of the deadline), but apparently it’s reasonable to expect some delays on renovation and they are working to present a recovery schedule to get back on track and finish by contractual deadline,” Cotton said.

The county manager didn’t sound particularly optimistic, though, about getting back on schedule.

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“That doesn’t mean they necessarily will,” he added.

Apparently, the delays are partially due to the discovery that the jail cells were actually holding up a floor of the courthouse. Cotton said the county gave KMD an extra 14 days to make up for this previously unknown obstacle. KMD Project Manager Ray Mims, however, said blaming the delay on the jail wall situation was debatable. He wouldn’t comment on other reasons but assured that his crew “is working seven days a week, and we’ll be almost back on schedule ... in the next month.”

Mims said his crew comes in as early as 4 a.m. and works 12 hour days.

“It’s been very tiring on the people that are working there, but it’s going to work itself out. It’s 100 times harder to take an existing building and fix it than it is to build a new one from the ground up,” Mims said.

It would likely be in the contractors’ best interest to finish the project as close to on time as possible. The county is keeping a close eye on the projected finish date, and KMD will be assessed a fine of $200 for each day it goes over the agreed upon deadline.

“Certainly we would expect a little hiccup here and there, but it was agreed upon originally that it would take this long. A contract is a contract, and we expect them to come in on time,” Cotton said.

The most crucial thing, Cotton said, is that the courthouse is completed by December 2008. Haywood County will celebrate its bicentennial throughout that year, and the festivities are supposed to culminate in December with a courthouse re-enactment.

Commissioner Mary Ann Enloe, the chair of the bicentennial committee, isn’t worried. She’s confident the courthouse will be completed in time for the re-enactment

“I was in there last week and went up to look at the light fixtures and look at the granite that has been chosen, and they’ve done an excellent job of finding granite that is almost an exact match. The courtroom is going to be returned to what it looked like in 1932,” Enloe said.

The beauty of Waynesville’s historic courthouse, built in the early 1900s, seems to be one thing everyone can agree on. Mims said he’s honored to renovate such an amazing structure.

“It’s just a beautiful building and it’s just a gorgeous building. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me after 35 years of contracting,” Mims said.

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