Cortland County Courthouse remodeling projects continue to take shape

Cortland County Courthouse. (Photo provided by Beau Harbin).

Cortland County legislators sent a clear message Tuesday: they are committed to remodeling the County Courthouse.

Legislators discussed the pathway to upgrading the century-old building. For starters, the assemblymember Anna Kelles secured $5 million in grant funds. At least $2.4 million of said funds come from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). DASNY provides construction, financing, and allied services that serve the public good of New York State.

This funding joins other sources earmarked by the county, including money from the building reserves account, potential reimbursements from the New York state court system, and $1 million in American Rescue Plan funds allocated toward the courthouse renovations.

The county is now looking to renovate the front entrance to the courthouse, east and west entrances, and the dome. 

Legislators decided on Tuesday at a County Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting to allocate money secured by Kelles to focus on the dome. An initial estimate on that part of the project currently sits at around $2 million.

“If we try to switch that scope we are going to start from the beginning with the process of requesting funds from DASNY and the ways and means committee in the assembly,” said legislature clerk Savannah Hempstead during a discussion of whether the funds should be allocated toward the dome or the east and west entrances. “We decided to keep the scope as is with the dome so we don’t have to start all over. We just have to find funding for east and west and figure out where that is coming from.”

Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) said in a Facebook post Tuesday renovating the entrance will begin in May.

I’ve been advocating for years to make these improvements and am so happy that we’re finally seeing them start to take shape,” he said. “In addition, we will be tackling one other big project I am asked about, replacing the copper on the dome. It’s reached the end of its life and needs to be replaced. Installing new copper that will last another 100 years is a big undertaking. We will preserve the historic character of our Courthouse and also ensure it’s in great shape for future generations.”

Legislators unanimously agreed to enter an agreement with Bell and Spina Architects of Syracuse for the completion of specifications for the dome project. Buildings and Grounds director Chuck Miller said the firm has not given the county a quote yet but that they expect to have a concrete number by sometime next week.

Miller estimated the price of the contract could be $200,000 or 10 percent of the total dome project.

We should have enough to cover the dome without going into fund balance,” Legislator Paul Heider (R-LD-16) said.

Legislators will have a concrete amount to vote on during the monthly legislative session at 6 p.m. April 27.