Courthouse renovation presents challenges
VIRGINIA CITY — Storey County officials are packed into the court house and commissioners are considering a renovation but historic buildings can be difficult to retrofit, according to those hired to design the project.
“This building is a treasure, but old courthouses don’t easily meet the demands of modern office space,” said Dan Wiley, architect and consultant. “Wires over the walls, pipes and conduits could erode the image of building and its historic nature.”
He said most historic buildings have wall bearing construction, meaning the walls can’t be moved.
“Modern office space is more open and flexible and can be adjusted, but that’s hard to accomplish in a building like this one,” he said.”Contemporary lighting and low ceilings run counter to what is needed to effectively preserve this building.
“It would be a good time to consider restricting the use of this building, possibly for the commission and meeting rooms,” he said.
Built in the 1870s, the gilded old lady stands just one block from the business district and, now doesn’t have enough room for computers or operations.
Officials first considered moving the district attorney, sheriff’s office and justice court to the Storey County Jail, the space then remodeled to facilitate expanded office use. According to Wiley, that creates another problem — the need for between 70 and 80 parking spaces.
Wiley and John Breternitz, executive vice president for Q&D Construction, suggested a special meeting to inform the public and ask for comments.
“The implications for this project can be shown and the problems best identified graphically,” Breternitz said. “Right now, the concepts are broad, but I’d like to solidify those concepts at the meeting.”
According to Breternitz, a cost estimate for the project won’t come until the implementation plan is completed around the end of October. Commissioners approved the public meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 4 in the Storey County court room.
In other business:
— Removal of Virginia City resident Jim Reed’s porch has been set aside for the time being, but his water bill could still increase if his home is classified as a commercial building.
The issues arose after a June 20 sewage spill ran down Flowery Street, near Reed’s home. Reed filmed the spill, part of the evidence leading to formal action by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection’s Water Pollution Control Bureau.
Following the incident, Reed’s sewer bill jumped from $15.20 to $72.50 and his residence is now classified as a commercial building. Storey officials contend Reed has paying boarders, an allegation Reed denies. In the wake of the spill an idea arose to reroute Flowery Street, a move that would force Reed to remove part of the porch from his home. The porch is about 30 years old but the home was built in 1862.
“This won’t be an issue until we put road through,” Commissioner Greg “Bum” Hess said. “I don’t know when, or if, that will happen.”
“I move to continue the removal of the porch until it’s a concern,” Commissioner Chuck Haynes said.
The water rates issue, now being researched by the District Attorney’s Office, is set to be discussed at the Sept. 17 Storey County Commission meeting.