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MOUNT VERNON — The old Central School building on Chestnut Street is in good shape for use as future county offices space, but renovations to get it there could cost as much as $3.8 million.
A study completed for the Knox County Commissioners by MKC Architects found the building to be sound, but an elevator, more efficient windows, a new roof and ADA compliance will carry a hefty price tag.
County Administrator Jason Booth said the cost of the renovations, estimated by MKC at $3,860,606, are beyond the county’s means. However, the school’s close proximity to the county service center and courthouse, and its sturdy, historic construction, make it worth saving, Booth said.
Booth said the county would probably have to partner with another agency to secure enough funding. This could be a county agency that has funds available outside of the general fund, Booth said. The board of elections has expressed an interest in relocating to the building.
MKC’s study was guided by the commissioner’s suggestions, Booth said. The county would like to see the building’s 14,408 square feet used to provide office space for two to four agencies, while retaining the structure’s historic features. The old school was built in 1939, and has a brick and stone exterior similar to the county service center, which is located in the former Mercy Hospital, the current facade of which was built in the 1920s-1930s.
The building has three floors, including a basement, or ground floor.
Blueprints in the study show that the second floor can be divided into two separate office spaces. About half the ground floor could be utilized, and the third floor, due to entrance/exit points, is recommended as a single office space.
Rather than construct new walls inside, the study recommends partitioning with cubicle-type barriers, Booth said.
To bring the front entryway into ADA compliance, the study recommends installing a sidewalk and ramp running along the front of the building. Parking spaces will need to be increased to meet county building codes, which require one space for every 200 square feet of office space. According to the study, 72 spaces will be required; the school currently has 57 spaces. To meet the local building code, a variance will have to be obtained, or additional parking be provided.
Some light demolition is expected, mostly for installation of the elevator. The elevator proposed would be hydraulic and located in the center rear area of the building. Booth said that because it is a hydraulic elevator, no structures will be needed on the roof to house motors and cables. The hydraulic elevator lifts from the bottom, and only uses power on the way up, Booth said, making it more energy efficient.
Installation of the elevator would require the loss of one rear window from each floor, vertically from the ground floor to the top floor.
The study states that the historic look of the school can be retained, including its broad, tall front windows. According to the study, the old windows can be replaced with fiberglass fixed windows with insulated glass “consistent with the architectural style of the existing building.” The windows would be more energy efficient than the existing windows, and cost around $65,255.
A roof replacement is recommended, removing wood and rubber and building back up from the original concrete deck. The roof has been found to contain asbestos, Booth said.
The survey states that asbestos is suspected in the existing tile flooring. The survey recommends leaving it in place, with new flooring installed on top.
Wood flooring in classrooms and wood doors and structures are recommended to be retained. The study recommends the wood floors be covered with carpet.
Exterior work, including the new roof and elevator, would cost an estimated $794,165. The renovations to each floor would run an estimated $1.2 million. Contractor and engineering fees, permits, office furniture and an estimated $462,853 in contingencies make up most of the rest.
Commissioners Teresa Bemiller and Thom Collier said it is a relief that demolition is not required, and that the county has a serviceable building in which to expand. Bemiller said the survey’s findings are currently being reviewed by the commissioners.