SIOUX CITY | The damaged exterior condition of the Woodbury County Courthouse is so dire that county supervisor Mark Monson said entire bricks can be pulled out of the foundation in some places.
County officials are assessing the aging building and have estimated there could be a $2.1 million price tag to address the exterior repair needs. When repairs to the building take place, county supervisors said substantial borrowing in a Capital Improvement Plan may be the method of payment.
Woodbury County Building Services Department Director Kenny Schmitz said the worst spots of the courthouse are higher up, typically from about the third to sixth floors on the eight-story building. The most weathered side of the courthouse building is on the north, he said.
"There is definitely work on all sides. There is differing severity, is all," Schmitz said.
Schmitz is still trying to determine the extent of the damage. A video camera will be run over the exterior to better pinpoint the conditions.
At a November board meeting, Woodbury County supervisors chairman Jeremy Taylor said courthouse repairs could run to $2.1 million.
"That is one of the challenges the county has ahead," Taylor said.
Supervisor Matthew Ung said the continuing repair needs show ongoing problems with a building that is 98 years old. The supervisors want the building renovated and looking sharp for the 100th anniversary events in 2018. However, the timeline for when exterior work will be completed is still under consideration.
"We are going to have another budget with a big CIP. These are needs, though," Ung said.
Designed by famed architect William Steele, the courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996. It's considered the largest publicly owned Prairie School-design building in the world.
The supervisors also spoke about the courthouse needs on Dec. 20, when the $2.1 million figure was again shared. About one-fourth of that cost, or $500,000, will be for the specialty work to bring in scaffolding to handle the improvements. That would be preferable to having people hanging from ropes to handle the exterior tasks.
"That is a lot of money," Taylor said.
The courthouse also has had a series of recent interior repairs to windows, courtrooms and other spots.
In late summer, the supervisors began actions to address the falling portions of terra cotta, a distinctive ceramic masonry for facings and architectural ornaments that is prevalent in the building. They designated the situation as an emergency, which enabled them to bypass the typical requirement of using a formal bidding process in pursuit of repairs.
That was the second time in 2016 an emergency designation was slapped on a portion of the courthouse building. Back in April, a marble framing section was falling off and windows were bowing out in a second-floor courtroom. A 6-foot marble section detached from the window assembly.