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The York County Council has approved a contract with ECS Carolinas, an environmental engineering and testing company, which will create a plan for the environmental clean-up project.
Once the clean-up plan is complete, said Rebecca Bowyer, assistant county engineer, the council will need to approve a separate contract for the removal work, at an estimated cost of less than $200,000.
She said she expects the removal work to begin later this spring.
“We may have some extra hurdles to overcome,” Bowyer said, referring to the timeline for the renovation. The courthouse, designed by architect William Augustus Edwards, was completed in July 1915. However, she said, the “wheels are turning.”
The present building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the fourth courthouse to be at the location in downtown York, she said. York County’s courthouse has been at the present location since 1785.
“We want to maintain the integrity of the original Edwards courthouse,” Bowyer said, referring to the architect, “but we also want it to function as a courthouse.”
The courthouse building is empty except for a portion of the deeds and records book storage, which is open to county staff, but not the public. The records and books will be moved before the work can begin, she said.
When complete, Bowyer said, the county courthouse will once again house three court systems — probate court and master in equity court functions and the Clerk of Court’s Civil Division.
The probate court and master in equity court functions were relocated to other office spaces at least 14 years ago because of a lack of space. The Clerk of Court’s Civil Division moved out of the courthouse in June 2011.
The county is spending about $11,000 per month in rent for those other offices.
The renovations have been delayed for several years because the county changed architects in 2011 and could not borrow money for the project after a spending proposal failed to gain public support. Money for the renovations was designated in 2008 to come from the county’s construction projects budget.
After years of waiting, County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said he’s glad to see the progress. “This has kind of been on the slow track,” he said. “We really need to get this in high gear now before I get another call from another judge.”
The amount of money spent on rent while waiting on renovations, Blackwell said, is “troubling.”
Bowyer also said she has been working with McCelvey Center, doing some research on the history of the courthouse building, and hopes to present the information in some kind of display when the renovations is complete.
Bowyer said she has some pictures of the courthouse and other material, but the history “has a lot of holes in it. I’m just reaching out to various agencies to get some help in filling in these gaps.”