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County Plans to Add Sprinkler System to Courthouse

by on July 31, 2019 12:42 PM

With a renovation project already underway, now looks like the right time to add a sprinkler system to the historic Centre County Courthouse, according to county officials.

The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a contract amendment with architect Weber Murphy Fox that will add design of a sprinkler system and new fire alarm system for the courthouse. The original design contract was for $47,500, and the addition for Weber Murphy Fox to hire a sub-consultant to design the system will add $25,100.

"Right now the courthouse is undergoing some major renovations in terms of its HVAC — new heating, cooling, duct work, you name it," Bob Jacobs, deputy county administrator, said. "There’s a lot of activity going on and a lot of the ceilings have been pulled down to do the duct work. Concurrent with that we’re looking at some renovations to the courthouse, particularly the second and third floor. We’re going to be tearing down some walls, recreating some spaces and improving some areas of the second and third floors."

Though the sprinkler and new alarm systems had been long discussed to be added in the future, Jacobs said staff and the commissioners felt it would be best to amend the contract and look at adding them now while the ceilings, ducts and walls are already being worked on.

"If we can actually add the sprinkler system to the courthouse while we’re already moving things around and renovating and bringing ceilings down this may be the best time to do it," Commissioner Mark Higgins said.

The original portion of the courthouse was constructed in 1805, with multiple additions over the years, and it's one of the oldest continuously operating courthouses in Pennsylvania.

"These amendments to the contract make it all the more important for that historical significance," Jacobs said. "These sprinkler and fire alarm systems will protect the integrity of the courthouse in case of a fire."

The cost to purchase and install the systems won't be known until the consultant's design work is completed, but Jacobs said the "ballpark" figure is likely $150,000 to $250,000. Some areas will be covered by a water sprinkler system, while the historic portions of the courthouse, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, will use a dry chemical sprinkler.

"The courthouse is a priceless entity here in Centre County," Commissioner Michael Pipe said. "There of course are constraints we have in terms of our capital budget but this is such a well worth it necessity and has been advocated for awhile. The stars are aligning so we have the opportunity to do it.

Work to bring the courthouse's fourth floor ramp entrance into ADA compliance is also included in the contract amendment.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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