Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The eastern entrance to the Hill County Courthouse or at least part of it is once again open to traffic. The County Commission said the handicap entrance ramp on the east side, which leads to a door on the ground floor of the courthouse, is once again open. The entrance was closed while work was done to replace the floor of the first level and the ramp was rebuilt. Commissioner Mike Anderson said Monday that the stairs on the east side will not be opened until new handrails are installed on the stairs. Parts for that project are on order, he said. New walls have been installed on the ground floor, which was gutted over the summer for a remodeling project for the level. The walls create a hallway from the east door to the courthouse elevator. Anderson said the actual remodeling project has not been put out for bid yet, and anticipates that will happen soon. Agencies formerly located in the level have been relocated until work on the ground floor is Completed. The stairs on the south side of the courthouse are still open, with temporary handrails installed, while the county government looks into options for once again rebuilding them. The original work on the courthouse was put out for bid early this decade, with that work completed in 2004 at a cost of $340,100. After the work was completed, the county government filed a lawsuit against the engineer and architect, Milk River Engineering of Havre and Springer Group of Bozeman, alleging that there were problems with the project, including an improper slope that would interfere with drainage and problems with the handrails on the southern steps. Milk River Engineering countersued the contractor for the project, Phillips Construction of Great Falls, and subcontractors Mammoth Erection of Great Falls and Lapke Construction of Simms. Last fall, in an out-of-courtsettlement, Milk River paid $300,000, Springer $35,000, Phillips $30,000, Mammoth $25,000 and Lakpe $20,000, for a total settlement of $410,000. The county had Phillips continue work on the steps last year, treating it as a continuation of the project rather than a new project. After initial work on the steps was completed a $396,550 project the county once again said there were problems with the slope of the steps. The county removed Phillips from the project and from the work on the ground floor, for which Phillips was the only company to return a bid. Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson said last fall that the county was in negotiation with Phillips about the payment for the work on the steps. Peterson said Monday that it appears the problems with the stairs can be resolved without tearing out and rebuilding the entire structure. She said the county is waiting for final information on the procedures and costs, which it will then forward to Phillips Construction and continue the negotiations about payment for the work completed. “We’re gathering quotes and information on what it will cost to fix,” she said.