County courthouse in need of extensive repairs

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By Steve Guntli

Whatcom County Courthouse is in need of repairs that will cost county taxpayers millions of dollars.

At the Whatcom County Council regular meeting on January 27, county executive Jack Louws outlined a multi-million-dollar project to replace the courthouse façade.

HKP Architects, which was hired four months ago to inspect the courthouse, delivered the bad news to council. The inspectors found numerous construction flaws that they attributed to poor craftsmanship from the contractors that renovated the exterior in 1991.

Brian Poppe of HKP said investigators compared drawings and blueprints from the 1991 design by Kirkland-based contractors Strand, Inc., to the actual work and found that the construction often did not match the design.

The inspectors found that water has been pooling inside the walls of the structure. During the investigation, HKP contractors were able to remove some bricks with their bare hands, and found that several support structures are rusting. Louws added that more than half of the double-paned windows in the facility are leaking and will likely need to be replaced.

The roof, Poppe said, is in most need of immediate repair, a job that is made more costly and complicated due to adjacent generator equipment.

In all, Louws estimates the work will cost several million dollars to complete, but could not provide a more specific estimate.

Louws said the county can take no legal action against Strand, Inc., due to an out-of-court settlement from years earlier.

In other county council news, Sam Crawford, a member of the council for 15 years, announced he would be resigning from the council effective March 1. Crawford said he was leaving to focus his energy at his workplace, Westside Building Center in Lynden.

The council must appoint Crawford’s replacement by a majority vote. Crawford’s term expires at the end of this year, so his replacement will need to run for reelection this November if interested in retaining the position.

On January 28, Kathy Kershner submitted her application for Crawford’s vacant seat. Kershner is a former Whatcom County Council chairwoman.

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