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Commission seeks repairs to bell tower

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 12:36 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Cabell County Courthouse has been the subject of multiple structural and aesthetic renovations in recent years, but one project remains on the Cabell County Commission's to-do list.

Commissioners took action toward checking that project off of their list during their regular meeting Thursday morning when they approved a measure to apply for a $100,000 grant that will go toward the repair of the courthouse's bell tower.

The measure included an application for the grant from the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority, a government entity that provides county governments with funding to modify existing courthouse facilities or for the construction of new facilities.

The bell tower is supported by a combination of steel and wooden beams, and it is those wooden beams that are deteriorating, said Cabell County Manager Chris Tatum.

"There's no chance that it is going to come crashing into the basement of the courthouse, but it's an old tower," said Tatum. "It's an issue that needs to be addressed."

Tatum said courthouse officials were aware of the issue prior to an assessment from the authority during the summer. The commission has addressed the issue of bell tower as recently as 2011.

Authority inspectors annually assess courthouse facilities in all 55 counties, but the inspector that visited the Cabell County Courthouse did not go into the bell tower, said Tatum. The issues in the tower were not addressed in that assessment.

Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas attended the authority's annual meeting in Bridgeport last week, and he said even though Cabell's assessment did not include the bell tower issues, the county's chances of receiving the grant money aren't in jeopardy.

"The grant money is not married to that assessment," said McComas.

The bell tower was part of the original construction of the courthouse, which took place from 1897 to 1901.

The dome of the courthouse was restored in 1997, but that project did not include the housing of the bell.

Tatum said the estimates on the project likely would be more than the $100,000 the grant would provide. He said cost estimates just for renting a crane to get to the tower are between $50,000 and $60,000.

Commission President Nancy Cartmill said the county received grant money from the authority for five straight years from 2007 to 2011, but they did not receive money in 2012.

That grant money was used for projects at the courthouse, including interior and exterior stone restoration projects in 2011, said Cartmill.

The fact that the county used the money to execute those projects bodes well for their chances for receiving a grant this year.

"It has everything to do with getting the grant money," said Cartmill. "We do what we say we are going to do, and we made it a priority to stay on it."

In other business during Thursday's meeting, commissioners approved the hiring of Shenandoah Valley Group as the agent for the county's group insurance plan, citing that group's comprehension of the Affordable Care Act.

The group was endorsed by the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia.

Commissioners also approved measures awarding grant money to Green Acres Regional Center to be used for marketing efforts.

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