The parking lot for judges and district attorney’s office employees, at the soon-to-be-renovated Columbia County Courthouse, will be secured with a gated fence – but not the opaque fence that some of the employees had hoped for.
The County Board’s Ad Hoc Building Committee on Thursday voted to stick with the original plan to build a fence featuring vertical galvanized steel, with some changes in the original design in the hope of increasing security and saving money.
The committee learned Thursday that the cost of a fence and gate with louvers to block the view from outside would be about $130,000. That’s more than twice the $53,000 that has been set aside for an open-work fence.
A motion called for changing the original design of the fence – eliminating masonry and brick piers and adding a curved top to the steel poles for added security. Tanner Davis of the Madison construction firm J.H. Findorff and Sons said he doesn’t know how much the cost would change, but it’s possible the savings from eliminating the 6-feet-high piers would more than cover the cost of adding the curvature at the fence’s top.
Building Project Manager Ron Locast of the Madison design firm Potter Lawson said the redesigned fence would have more of a continuous look, with the piers replaced by steel fence posts.
Judge W. Andrew Voigt said not all the employees who would get assigned parking spaces in the fenced lot have an opinion on the matter, but those who do – including him – feel fairly strongly that an opaque fence is necessary for security.
County Board Chairman Vern Gove disagreed with Voigt’s contention that the non-opaque fence would provide no additional security.
At the very least, Gove said, it would prevent people from getting to the judges and others who park in the secured area, or getting to their vehicles.
Voigt suggested, however, that some employees who would get parking spaces assigned in the fenced area might not use those spaces because they don’t feel safe.
Improved security is one reason why the courthouse is being remodeled for court-related use only, as part of the county’s $45.51 million building project.
Committee Member Fred Teitgen of the town of Dekorra said the open-work fence, with an electronically controlled sliding gate, would give the judges and district attorney’s office workers more protection than they have now.
“It’s a question of aesthetics vs. a small increase in security,” he said.
Committee Member Teresa Sumnicht of Columbus cast the only opposing vote.
“I’m taking Judge Voigt’s comments and voting nay,” she said.
The fence will not be installed until spring. Completion for the courthouse renovation is anticipated for the end of May. Meanwhile, the court-related offices are temporarily located in the new Health and Human Services Building, 111 E. Mullett St.