Alcorn County is taking the next step toward interior renovations at the courthouse.
The Board of Supervisors on Monday voted to proceed with a schematic design of the entire courthouse building by Belinda Stewart Architects at an estimated cost of $75,000.
During a special meeting with the board on Friday, Stewart told the board it will take six to nine months from now to reach the bid phase and a year after that to complete construction. The board will still need to decide the scope of the project – whether it will only encompass the courtroom and support space or other renovations, as well.
Cost estimates presented Friday were $1.675 million for courtroom and support space restoration and $2.482 million for an expanded project that would include window restoration and elevator work. Those costs do not include asbestos testing and abatement.
The Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District is applying for grant funding of $500,000 from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on behalf of the county.
Stewart, who designed renovations for the very similar courthouse at Pontotoc, is excited about the project.
“It is such a great courthouse,” said Stewart. “Y’all are very blessed. I can’t wait for everyone to see that courtroom when it comes back. It will be a jewel.”
She described the structure, designed by Noah Webster Overstreet with exterior walls of brick and concrete, as sophisticated and “very well built.” Overstreet designed a number of courthouses, schools and churches around the state.
He was “one of the best architects that has ever come through our state in terms of the quality of what he designed and oversaw to be built, and you’ve got one of the finest of those,” said Stewart. “Even though it is a fairly early building, it is built more like buildings that were built 20 or 30 years later, because he was kind of that far ahead of the times. You’re really fortunate to have this extraordinary building.”
The intent is to restore the original footprint of the courtroom because of the need for additional space in the era of Covid while also bringing back the original character, which includes still present but currently hidden design elements. The architect proposes reopening the balcony, which has been sealed from the public for years. Removing the drop ceiling is expected to more than double the height of the room.
Circuit Clerk Crystal Starling asked that special care be taken to preserve good acoustics.
After completing the schematic design, the project would go to design development and then the construction document phase.
Restoration of the courtroom will require relocation of the various support spaces and redesign of the general layout of the second floor, the architect’s initial report stated.