After taking a hit by the severe February snow storm, the Harrison County road and bridge offices, at 3800 Five Notch Road, will be getting a much needed facelift in the form of a new building soon.

“We’ve known that we needed to do some work on it — either remodeling it or replacing it — and we were intending to begin putting away some money each year so that we’d be ready to do it,” explained County Judge Chad Sims.

“So it’s coming pretty quick,” he said. “We were thinking probably in the next two to three, maybe four years, but then after the damage we had from the snow storm, it sped that up; and so here we are with a building that was already old and in need of some repairs and now it’s severely damaged.

“So we decided that we’d go ahead and move out of that and make plans to tear that old building down and build a new one,” said Sims.

The February 13 snow storm caused extensive damage to the site, flooding not only the inside office areas, but demolishing the outdoor storage and workshop, as well.

“In the front office, it came through the ceiling and caved in the ceiling,” County Road Administrator Luke Davis described.

“All our tiles had fallen in. We had about two-and-a-half to three inches of water in there at one time,” said Davis.

Davis said the damaged rear part of the building was used to store some equipment, pallets of cement and more.

“We build barricades and stuff like that underneath it,” the road administrator described.

He’s glad no one was working at the site, at the time.

“Nobody was hurt or anything, so that’s a blessing,” said Davis.

Request For Qualifications

The county has started the process of publishing request for qualifications in order to seek the services of a state registered architect/engineer to provide services for design, programming, permitting and construction of the new building. The Harrison County Commissioners Court gave the green light last week to begin the process to seek professional architectural/engineering services.

“We initially looked at some other sites that may have already had a building in place, and then we looked at a few but decided that it would be best to rebuild onsite and build exactly what would suit the needs of our road and bridge staff and the field guys, and be able to maintain the equipment and all that in one facility,” Judge Sims advised. “So that’s what we decided to do.”

“The purpose of the (request for qualifications) would be to hire an engineer or architect and a contractor that can walk us through designing and building a new facility out at our current road and bridge site on Five Notch Road,” he said.

ARC Renovations

In addition to the that construction project, the professionals would also be sought to perform renovation services to the now vacant ARC of Harrison County building, located at 2113 Warren Drive, across from the county airport and next to the county’s Willoughby Juvenile Detention Center.

For more than three decades, the facility consisting of a day-habilitation center and workshop provided enrichment, community inclusion, vocational training, and piece-work opportunities for local adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The building closed in 2018 after 43 years of service due to a lack of funding.

“It’s a large building that’s really being used for storage right now, but it could really serve a lot of other uses,” Judge Sims said. “So with a remodel on it, we feel like we could start using it for more things than just storage and maybe put some offices out there.

“So we intend to include in this RFQ, not just rebuilding the road and bridge, but also a renovation of the ARC building,” he shared. “It’s a little faster than what we had anticipated, but sometimes you get to work with the cards that you’re dealt with and that’s what we’ve got in our hand, so we’re going to get busy on it and make some lemonade.”

Although the county doesn’t yet know the monetary extent of damages incurred to the road and bridge building, Sims said they do know that the damage was substantial enough to ruin office furniture, equipment and more.

“Already being in bad shape, we felt like it really wasn’t worth trying to patch together on an old building like that,” said Sims.

Not only did the facility on Five Notch Road house the road and bridge offices, the building was the site for the county fire marshal’s office and environmental services, too. Sims said the county is considering moving the fire marshal’s office to the soon to be renovated ARC building.

“The on-site sewage facility, which is the environmental group, is also part of the fire marshal’s office, so they’ll be coming over there too,” said Sims.

Sims said the county is also considering moving the Agrilife county extension office to the ARC building. The building would be the perfect location, considering it’s located in close proximity to the county’s Ag farm.

“We’ve discussed moving our extension office over there, and renovating that and giving them some more office space and a larger meeting area and conference rooms,” the county judge said.

“Right around the corner from there is the Marshall ISD Ag barn, and they lease that area from the county,” said Sims.

“The school district has decided to build their own Ag barn on their high school property; and at some point, I was anticipating it this year, they’re going to release that back to the county,” said Sims. “So it’d be real handy for our extension office and the 4H kids that they serve to be able to utilize that Ag barn for some 4H projects.”

He said it would be ideal not only for students that live in the rural parts of the county, but particularly for children in the city limits, who may not have a place to house their farm animals.

“They’d be able to do that, right here, almost in town,” said Sims. “That’ll be right around the corner from that ARC building. So, it seems like a good fit.”

Sims said the Ag barn property also has space that could be utilized by the extension agency’s master gardeners program. The master gardeners plan to use the space for a greenhouse.

“Marshall High School gave the master gardeners their old greenhouse. Marshall ISD got a new greenhouse,” said Sims. “The master gardeners got their old one; and so they tore it down and they intend to rebuild that out there on that Ag farm site.

“Again, the master gardeners are part of that extension office, so it’s just a great fit,” said Sims.

According to the request for qualifications, renovations to the ARC building will include the replacement of exterior siding and roof, and “finish-out” of a new office and meeting spaces.

“Again, we intended to save up for these things, but we’re in a position that we can do it now; so sometimes, as I mentioned earlier, you just have to go with it as you’re dealt it,” Judge Sims said.

Temporary Offices

In the meantime, the road and bridge and fire marshal offices have temporarily moved to a site at 1108 Commerce Street, located at Industrial Park, off of Loop 390 and Highway 43.

“MEDCO owns a building out there and they were helpful enough to let us enter into a lease, and to lease that property for a short-term lease,” said Sims. “We can be out at that building while we’re doing the work out on Five Notch Road.”

The county invites qualified firms to submit qualifications for professional architectural/engineering services for the new construction and renovation projects no later than 5 p.m., Monday, May 17.

“The requests for qualifications will put on notice all of the engineers, architects and general contractors that we’re seeking their partnership,” Judge Sims said. “We’re seeking information on their firms so that we can enter into or engage them to work on this project for us.

“It is big news for our county, and especially our road and bridge guys and getting them in a nice facility,” said Sims. “We need to take care of them, so they can take care of our roads.”

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