State historical society seeks funds for courthouse repairsHelp may be on the way for the historic Stutsman County Courthouse. Its owner, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, will ask the state’s Emergency Commission Tuesday for $60,000 in emergency historical funds to begin repairs on the interior of the 1883 building.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Help may be on the way for the historic Stutsman County Courthouse.
Its owner, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, will ask the state’s Emergency Commission Tuesday for $60,000 in emergency historical funds to begin repairs on the interior of the 1883 building.
“That would be great. That would certainly help with the beginnings of the interior restoration, which would be fantastic,” said Barb Lang, treasurer of the local 1883 Courthouse Committee.
The request comes after swab sampling revealed seven mold species — some potentially toxic or carcinogenic — in the old courthouse.
In addition, walkthroughs of the building showed suspect asbestos-containing pipe insulation, chipping lead paint and fire hazards such as combustible materials and old electric wiring.
Stutsman County officials raised concerns about the air quality in the old courthouse because it is still connected with the new courthouse in at least four locations.
Because it is not completely sealed off, air quality issues in the old building could potentially become air quality problems in the new building, Stutsman County officials contend.
“I hope they’re successful” in getting funding, said Mark Klose, chairman of the Stutsman County Commission. “We’re interested only because it’s creating some issues for us.”
Emergency historical funds are set aside at the state level for situations that involve historic buildings or archaeological sites that need to be stabilized, said Fern Swenson, director of the archaeology and historic preservation division of the State Historical Society.
“… it’s a start to address some of those concerns that have been expressed, and we find that everything’s doable and fixable, and it’s just a start in the whole process,” Swenson said.
The $60,000 would go toward removing old carpets and loose paint in the floor of the old courthouse basement, removing old electrical wiring, improving windows and rewiring sprinkler systems.
It will also replace walls between the old and new courthouse and remove asbestos in the old building.
New security and fire detection systems will be put in place, too, Swenson added, calling the funding request “a good, good step.”
“It’s time someone did something — it’s been neglected too long,” said Dave Schwartz, Stutsman County commissioner.
Representatives of the SHSND visited Stutsman County officials unannounced Tuesday morning, along with the historical society’s environmental consultant, and spoke about doing an air quality study in the new courthouse, said Casey Bradley, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer.
Should the historical society be granted its request for $60,000, that money will begin the long process of fixing up the historic building. The SHSND will pursue additional funding and grants in the future, Swenson said.
One possible plan is to fill the old courthouse basement with sand and concentrate restoration efforts on the first and second levels, she said.
Should funding be approved Tuesday, initial work would start on the courthouse as soon as possible, and could be completed by winter.
The State Historical Society and the 1883 Courthouse Committee will continue to work together over the summer on additional planning, Swenson said.
“I know the local committee would be thrilled to start seeing some work done on the inside,” Lang said.
Currently, the committee includes about three to four active members, but when the group was in the midst of fundraising for exterior courthouse repairs, its members numbered in the 30s or 40s, Lang recalled.
There is no membership fee involved with the committee, which is a volunteer organization, and all are welcome to join.
Anyone interested may call Lang at 252-4570.
“We love our courthouse, we really do. It’s such a beautiful building. We know it’s going to be a spectacular place as soon as it’s utilized, and it will happen,” Lang said. “We’ve got patience.”
Donations for the courthouse may be sent to the State Historical Society Foundation, P.O. Box 1976, Bismarck, ND, 58502. For more information, call 701-328-2666.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org