Repair work is finally underway on one of the city’s most high-profile landmark after months of delay caused by the budget crisis.
A crew from Hopewell-based construction company J.W. Enochs is installing scaffolding around the historic Hustings Court building in preparation for the start of what’s expected to be about nine months of work repairing the nearly 180-year-old building’s clock tower and roof.
City spokesman Clay D. Hamner said the $1.2 million project “is being paid for by a [Virginia Resource Authority] bond issue that was approved prior to the financial crisis.”
The project is being overseen by Moseley Architects of Richmond, and the city’s Architectural Review Board will be reviewing the work for historical accuracy, Hamner said.
When the work is complete, he noted, “All four clock faces will eventually display the same time.”
J.W. Enochs was originally awarded a $965,000 contract for rehabilitation of the courthouse clock tower last May, but the work was delayed by the discovery in June of a serious crimp in Petersburg’s cash flow.
City officials have known about structural problems with the historic edifice, built in 1839, for some time. In June 2014, the building was ordered closed, and Circuit Court jury trials were temporarily moved to the Dinwiddie County Circuit Courthouse.
The building was later reopened on a limited basis after the tower was temporarily stabilized with wood braces, which are still in place. But in October of this year, the city’s Fire Marshal ordered the building closed, declaring it unsafe to enter until repairs are made.
An inspection of the building by Moseley Architects in September 2014 found that while its clock tower wasn’t in immediate danger of collapsing, the whole building was suffering from “various levels of decay and deterioration.”
In particular, structural beams were degraded and the roof trusses “have been severely compromised,” the architects found.
In an order issued in December 2014, three judges of Petersburg’s Circuit Court found that the city’s historic Hustings Court was in violation of state law because it was “insecure, out of repair, or otherwise poses a danger to the health, welfare and safety of court employees or the public.”
Judges Paul Cella, Dennis Martin and Joseph Teefey ordered the members of City Council to ensure that “the necessary work and construction be performed and completed” according to a schedule included in the judges’ order. According to that schedule, all work on the courthouse was to be completed by May 2016.