NEWBERRY — The Newberry County Courthouse has had an ongoing leak in its basement since 2001 that has caused both mold and water damage to the structure, but the issue has become more prominent within the last five years.
During a work session last week, council heard from three structural engineering firms — Davis & Floyd Inc. from Greenwood, MMSA Inc. from Greenville and Chao and Associates Inc. from Columbia. Each firm recognized the issues known to the council, but gave different approaches to fixing them
The courthouse was constructed in 1908, and had its first expansion in 1939. The basement was added in 1990, along with other various upgrades. The work done in the 1990s is what led to the current leak.
County Administrator Wayne Adams said there are several key issues that need to be addressed.
The first is that the soil service is sloping downward toward the courthouse, allowing water to make its way to the basement. The second is that the membrane — a type of protector that adheres to the exterior wall and prevents water from going inside — and waterproofing, installed in the 1990s, were not completely installed and is not continuous around the structure.
Davis & Floyd’s main solution was to be redundant with the waterproofing for the exterior and to make the membrane continuous around the courthouse, along with other minor fixes.
“There needs to be continuous membrane around the structure and the steps need to come out to do that,” said Jason Eppley, spokesman for David & Floyd.
The construction estimate given by David & Floyd was $386,712 but did not include all aspects of repair given to the board, just the base cost for construction. County Council would have to decide what other repairs they would like to include for the building and add those costs to the estimate.
MMSA’s solution was to update the waterproofing and include a drainage system that would provide continuous waterproofing around the courthouse, and a drainage system that would prevent water from going into the basement, but out into the street. Their estimate was $120,000 to $200,000.
The presentation by Jimmy Chao from Chao and Associates took a different approach by recommending that the issues be assessed before any decision is made. One solution he presented was adding a waterproofing with a 20 year warranty and making sure the outside slope is going away from the courthouse.
Chao also said they would watch the contractor and make sure the job is done correctly to prevent the same issues from occurring again. Chao did not give an estimate but said for the waterproofing, with the 20 year warranty, the price would range from $120,000 to $150,000.
After hearing the presentations, council unanimously approved a motion to go with Chao and Associates Inc. for the upgrades and repairs. Councilman Leslie Hipp made the motion.
Adams said the county is in the process of making and finalizing a contract with the firm.
“We knew going in what was causing the water infiltration into the basement. The meeting was to see the qualifications of the engineers,” Adams said. “All three firms recognized the need for further excavation to further evaluate the problem.”