Moniteau County commissioners hope to prevent future issues at the historic Moniteau County Courthouse by putting American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to work on preventive maintenance projects.
The commissioners are looking to improve the 1868 facility by addressing roofing and masonry issues, preventing foundation settling and potentially addressing uneven temperature zones. Like many counties throughout the country, the ARPA funds issued during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a valuable lifeline for completing projects that otherwise wouldn't be completed without bond issues or other funding sources.
"This is long term and luckily, with the ARPA money, a lot of, probably a third of the other counties are doing the same exact thing," said Presiding Commissioner Joe Lutz. "Because who the hell's got a million dollars laying around to do this? This is the only chance we're going to have."
District 1 Commissioner Clint Hoellering said they're working out how far $1 million in ARPA funds will go in funding projects. Lutz said the projects will be done in order of priority, starting with the roof.
"Our first things are, make sure the foundation is solid and make sure that the roof doesn't leak," Lutz said.
While Lutz said the roof isn't leaking currently, he feels it's just a matter of time before it does start leaking. District 2 Commissioner Rick Messerli said the building has three different types of roofing -- tin, wood and a rubber coating -- further complicating replacement of the roof on the historic building.
"We have wood box gutters up here from (the 1800s) with downspouts through them with gutters in them going back out to the drains now," said Messerli, referring to the gutters on the roof. "There's just so much old stuff."
Lutz also said architects discussed preventing foundation issues, which they have found in other courthouses.
"A lot of these guys that (we've) talked to now, they've got ARPA money and the architects were telling us 'You know, we were in such-and-such courthouse and they have let it go for so long that there just wasn't any coming back from it,'" he said.
To prevent foundation and water ingress issues, Messerli said pop-up drains were installed approximately six to eight years ago. He said the commissioner's office in the courthouse basement would often leak before the drains were installed.
Another issue commissioners would like to tackle with ARPA funds is uneven temperature zones throughout the courthouse. The courthouse was originally heated with four fireplaces, Lutz said, with the courthouse transitioning to steam heat in the 1930s. The current boiler was installed in 1985. Much like the roof, Lutz said the building's heating system was cobbled together over time.
"It's all kind of scabbed on, one to the other, and it kind of works but it kind of don't," he said. "If you're in this part you're sweating your a-- off, and if you're in that part you're freezing."
Lutz said the only remaining chimney from the original fireplaces, on the northwestern side of the building, will need to come down. Once removed, work will be done to make the building look uniform on that side.
The commissioners also hope to lighten the load on future commissioners by incorporating a long-term maintenance schedule.
"Basically we get this stuff done and we're all dead and gone, the next guys that are in here can look at it and go 'Hey, it's been x amount of years, we need to look at doing this and this needs to be done to keep things up,'" Lutz said.
Moving forward, the commissioners will choose an architect for the projects March 6. From there, contractors will be solicited through a bid process. Lutz said the "lowest and best bid" will win the contract, as experience will also play a role in which contractor they choose to proceed with.
In the end, Lutz intends to do his part in continuing the courthouse's life.
"Our thing here as commissioners is, when we leave, this building is set to last for the next century and that the guys that take our place eventually will have an idea of what they need to do to keep that going," he said.