Work finally has started on rebuilding the steps on the Hill County Courthouse, a project originally started some eight years ago.
Hill County Commission Chair Mike Wendland said Dick Anderson Construction Inc. of Great Falls began the work Wednesday. The steps will be closed, and people are asked to use the entrances on the side of the building, including the handicap-accessible entrance on the east side.
Those entrances lead to the bottom floor, which has stairs and a handicapp-accessible elevator to access the higher floors.
Wendland said exactly how long the steps and main entrance will be closed is not known.
The first project to fix the steps, completed in 2004, ended in litigation. It included work on the east entrance.
The county sued the architect because of problems including the slope of the steps. The slope was too low, preventing water from draining properly from the steps. Other problems included deterioration of the hand rails on the steps, and the hand rail on the concrete sides not meeting specifications.
The architect countersued, saying the problem was with the contractor, Phillips Construction of Cascade, and subcontractors.
That lawsuit was settled out of court, with the county receiving $410,000, more than the original cost of the project, $340,000.
Phillips Construction began work to rebuild the steps again in 2007, with the county using that contractor as a continuation of the original project rather than reopening the project for bid.
Phillips later was pulled from the project. Once new side walls and stairs were poured on the south steps, new problems were found — the county said one of the new walls had been set at a slant, the barristers erected to hold lamps at the bottom of the steps were not square, and now the steps had too great a slope.
The county once again entered litigation on the project and has been in arbitration and negotiation with Phillips Construction ever since.
Wendland said he could not comment on the specifics of the ongoing lawsuit and could not give specifics of the budget for the project now as it also is tied up in the lawsuit settlement.