Local News

Chatham picks firm to rebuild courthouse

Posted October 4, 2011 11:38 a.m. EDT

— Eighteen months after it was seriously damaged in a fire, Chatham County's iconic courthouse will soon begin to rise from the ashes.

The county Board of Commissioners on Monday awarded a $4.4 million contract to H. M. Kern Corp. in Greensboro to rebuild the courthouse. Work is expected to start in a few weeks and last a year.

“We are excited that the process of rebuilding can begin,” board Chairman Brian Bock said in a statement. “All of us have missed our beautiful courthouse. When completed, it also will serve as an appropriate and effective meeting space for the commissioners since it will feature greatly improved sound and audio systems.”

An investigation of the March 25, 2010, fire determined that contractors involved in renovations of the courthouse had accidentally caused the fire while using welding equipment near the roof.

The courthouse, which sits in a traffic circle at the intersections of U.S. Highways 64 and 15/501, was gutted, and its clock tower collapsed into the building.

Insurance on the courthouse is expected to cover the cost of reconstruction, according to county Public Works Director David Hughes.

Once rebuilt, the courthouse will include a courtroom, the Chatham Historical Association, a visitors' center, meeting space and art displays. Most of the county's court operations will be housed in a new Judicial Center slated to open next fall.