PRINCETON — When the Mercer County Courthouse was erected in 1930, its entrances and stairs were not designed with handicap accessibility in mind, but bids are being sought from contractors interested bringing it up to 21st Century standards.
The Mercer County Commission recently started advertising for contractors’ bids. The winner bidder will construct a disabled access ramp, new front steps, and replace the sidewalk along the courthouse’s north side. County Commissioner Bill Archer said the county commission plans to have a pre-bid conference in early June.
“Work is scheduled to begin as soon as we have bids in and we select the bids,” Archer stated Thursday.
Some drainage issues outside the courthouse had to be resolved before work could begin. The county commission also had to confer with the State Office of Historic Preservation.
“They hold any kind of historic structure to a high standard for any kind of addition or change to the structure,” Archer said. “And they came down and visited with us. They had recommendations and we responded to each of their recommendations. It’s great. I’m just so happy.”
The changes that will make the Mercer County Courthouse more handicap accessible will be based on the designs being used at a federal facility.
“It’s a handicap ramp that’s based on the designs used at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building in Charleston,” Archer said. “It will be at the main entrance where you have to come to the security gate. We’re going to replace the sidewalk, and add additional railings to make it safer. It’s taken some time, but I think the public will really like it.”
Handicapped people who want to use the elevator and avoid the courthouse’s exterior and indoor stairs now have to go through the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. It’s the same route that officers use when they bring regional jail inmates to court hearings.
“That was one of the sales points,” Archer said about obtaining funding for the renovations. “You’re supposed to have your main entrance be handicap accessible. The building was created in 1930 and it’s a beautiful building.”
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