OTTUMWA, IOWA— The initial report from a consulting firm’s May site visit has the county wondering what additional work will have to precede the replacement of windows in the courthouse.
In March the county board of supervisors agreed to have Chairman Jerry Parker contact Victor Amoroso of A and J Associates for recommendations on replacing windows in the courthouse. “There are certain things we can and cannot do,” said Parker, because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Amoroso and architect Douglas Steinmetz examined the windows in May. Parker told supervisors last week that Steinmetz and Amoroso “found some things they thought we might want to address before we do the windows.”
Two concerns that Parker mentioned were sand in the fifth floor front window and sporadic fire protection.
Sand in the fifth floor front window may indicate that the masonry is pulling apart, Steinmetz’s report says. Photographs and observations made at the time of the site visit were inconclusive though there does appear to be an area of missing exterior mortar, Steinmetz said.
According to the report, exploratory construction will be needed to evaluate the situation. In addition, the missing center pier at this window will have to be reconstructed. “This will help with structural concerns and also reduce the glass area helping to reduce solar gain in the office located by this window,” the report says.
Steinmetz called the fire protection system at the courthouse “spotty.” “System does not provide full coverage along designated exit routes,” his report says.
County Auditor Kelly Spurgeon told supervisors last week that the courthouse is inspected every year, and she doesn’t understand why the deficiency hasn’t been mentioned before.
“It might be good to have the fire inspector look at it,” said Parker at the May 30 board meeting.
Supervisor Greg Kenning suggested that the county address the sprinkler issue before proceeding with the window project.
Supervisors instructed Spurgeon to look into Steinmetz’s concerns in collaboration with courthouse Building Maintenance Manager Andrew Birch.
“I still haven’t read the report yet,” said Spurgeon Monday. Her office is busy with fiscal budgets this time of year. Spurgeon said the courthouse is inspected every year, and spotty coverage of the sprinkler system has never been brought to her attention.
Parker said Monday that there are no sprinklers on the fifth floor of the courthouse. “We don’t know that they are required to be there,” he said. The floor is used only for storage.
Parker said the county also has questions about some fire escapes and exit routes. “Some of the bolts going into that old stone are loose,” said Parker. If the fire escapes are needed, their stability will have to be addressed.
Another issue supervisors want to address involves the escape route through the main courtroom on the third floor. “We keep that door locked,” Parker said. “They were afraid people visiting the courthouse could slip a weapon in there, so we were required to keep that door locked.”
However, the courtroom is designated as an escape route, Parker said. If the fire inspector requires that access to the courtroom be unrestricted for fire safety, the county will not be able to keep the courtroom locked as law enforcement requested.
Anyone in the courtroom has an escape route, Parker said, but when court is not in session, the room is locked, and a different escape route has to be used.
Parker said that he’s contacted Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller to request that the city’s fire inspector look into the issues addressed in the Steinmetz’s report.
Source: Ottumwa Courier
Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.