Courthouse workThe State Historical Society of North Dakota is moving ahead with fixes to the historic Stutsman County Courthouse following an inspection that identified moisture as the building’s primary problem.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The State Historical Society of North Dakota is moving ahead with fixes to the historic Stutsman County Courthouse following an inspection that identified moisture as the building’s primary problem.
“The things that we’re doing now should help with that, but we’ll probably also need to get some dehumidifiers in the basement,” said Fern Swenson, director of the Archaeology and Historic Preservation Division of the SHSND.
The SHSND owns the historic 1883 building and received $60,000 in emergency historical funds from the state’s Emergency Commission in June to begin interior repairs.
The funds came after Stutsman County officials voiced concern about the old courthouse’s remaining connections with the new courthouse, which could have potentially allowed mold from the old building into the new building, which houses the county’s offices.
Later, a study from Badlands Environmental Consultants Inc. based on samples taken June 5 showed that the old courthouse did have mold, but it had not gotten into the new building.
Work has begun
Some work on the historic courthouse has already been done since June 20, when North Dakota Department of Health environmental scientist Sandi Washek did a three-hour indoor air quality inspection of the building.
This past week, contractors worked on the masonry wall between the old and new courthouses, replacing the wall that had a small hole in it with a wall built with concrete blocks. Building the wall cost about $6,000.
Previously, all the electrical issues were taken care of, Swenson said, with excess wiring removed.
Future plans include fixing the landscaping around the building and extending the downspouts — both tactics meant to prevent water from getting into the old courthouse.
Next week, Swenson said, bids will be opened for asbestos abatement in the old courthouse, which the SHSND hopes will begin and be completed this fall.
“Part of that project, too, is for the mold,” Swenson said. “It will take care of the mold, asbestos and lead-based paint in the basement.”
The work in the old courthouse is consistent with the recommendations Washek made in her report following the inspection in June.
“What they need to do is control the moisture, clean out the basement, and … the wet and damaged material in the basement, and turn around and deal with the water intrusion issue,” Washek said, summarizing the most important parts of her written report during an interview. “That’s the biggest things — control moisture and clean up what they have on site.”
Halting mold and moisture
The report features notes on the exterior and interior features of the courthouse, including the main floor, second floor and balcony as well as the basement.
It also includes a section about moisture and mold, asbestos and lead-based paint, as well as a set of 13 recommendations.
Most of the recommendations involve moisture and mold prevention, mitigation and removal.
“In an effort to improve and maintain good air quality, the Department suggests that the following recommendations be considered and, if practical, implemented as soon as possible,” Washek wrote.
Washek recommended that the SHSND:
* Re-landscape around the old courthouse building to enable water to move away from the building foundation.
* Install extensions on the downspouts to move water away from the building.
* Install solid covers on window wells to prevent moisture from entering the basement.
* Abate all asbestos in the basement before mold remediation begins. Inspect the basement wall plaster to see if it contains asbestos.
* Remove all moldy and water-damaged building material that is nonstructural, and clean, dry and sterilize the area.
* Cover the basement floor with concrete and add an interior drain-tile system to control water drainage. Inspect the rock foundation.
* Remove all carpet throughout the building.
* Install a dehumidifier if necessary.
* Inspect and drain all water pipes and radiator lines in the building. Plug all plumbing penetrations.
* Remove debris and vacuum the stairs in the bell loft. Clean the dust and debris from all rooms in the building.
* Penetrations between the old courthouse and the annex need to be permanently sealed.
Stutsman County Auditor/Chief Operating Officer Casey Bradley said he had not had any contact with the SHSND since the June 20 inspection, adding the county would appreciate receiving an anticipated work schedule.
“It’s up to the historical society and their board to go on from here and decide what they want to do with it,” Washek said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at