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Courthouse elevator project underway

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Construction workers move materials Friday morning for the new elevator at the Chaves County Courthouse. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A long-awaited construction project is underway, the building of the Chaves County Courthouse elevator.

Requested by many county residents and something the county itself wanted to build when it did a major renovation of the courthouse in 2005, the elevator will provide an alternative to the 22 steps up to the main doors facing North Virginia Avenue and to the winding ramp that some people, including county officials, have described as difficult to navigate.

The work actually began in late June with some excavation and ground work, said Chaves County Public Services Director Bill Williams. But crews were noticeable Friday as they blocked off a portion of North Virginia and moved construction materials to the elevator site. That’s at the northwest corner of East Fourth Street and North Virginia, near the handicapped parking area for the courthouse.

Williams said that the project involves building a temperature-controlled vestibule, an elevator that can hold about 10 people and a new enclosed hallway. The new hallway will connect to an existing hallway, which then will lead people to the front doors of the public entrance, at the top of the 22 stairs.

“It should be done by the end of the year,” he said. “One of the advantages to the elevator, too, is that, during bad weather events, that ramp could get icy. You are walking up outside, when there is snow on the ground, it could make it a lot more difficult. Whereas this one will be heated and cooled, you just get out of your car and make it to the doorway and you are inside until you exit onto the steps in front of the courthouse.”

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The general contractor for the project is Waide Construction Co. Inc. of Roswell, the lowest bidder at $594,641.

The entire project will cost about $650,000. Part of the costs are covered by a $238,528 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $250,000 from a state capital outlay grant. County funds will cover the remaining amount.

The project has been planned for more than four years. It took some time for the county to obtain the funding. The pandemic also delayed some of the planned pre-construction meetings, but Williams said the project is on schedule now.

According to county officials, the original plans for the 2005 courthouse renovation included an elevator, but officials were told by the state that they were required to have a ramp. Because the county could not afford to build both at the same time, they constructed the ramp and included a wheelchair lift. But the lift has not functioned properly for a few years. Without the elevator, people wanting access to the courthouse who could not climb the stairs or use the ramp have to call courthouse staff for assistance.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.