Asbestos abatement project working through courthouse

Temporary relocations not hindering office operations

Leader photo by Tim Ryan Legal Secretary Chris Raddant works from a makeshift desk in the basement of the Shawano County Courthouse while the district attorney’s office undergoes asbestos removal.

Leader photo by Tim Ryan A one-foot gap in the wood paneling interior walls of the district attorney’s office allowed for carpet and tile removal as part of an asbestos abatement project at the Shawano County courthouse. The gap will be filled with pine and playwood and the walls will be painted over.

Everything old is becoming new again at the Shawano County Courthouse, even though it’s unlikely most visitors will notice much difference after the work is done.

A long-awaited asbestos abatement project has been underway since mid-December that will finally remove all traces of the health hazard from the 60-year-old building.

Asphalt-asbestos tile that was considered cutting edge in the 50s was later covered with carpeting in most courthouse offices to encapsulate the asbestos.

The tile and the carpeting have been deteriorating for some time, and the carpeting couldn’t be replaced without also pulling up the tiles.

The massive $466,000 abatement project has been tackling the asbestos removal in stages, room by room and office by office.

It began with the basement meeting rooms, which cleared that space for other office operations to relocate there while those office spaces were being treated.

This week, it has been the district attorney’s office making its temporary home in the basement.

Chris Raddant, one of two legal secretaries in the office, said the basement location has actually provided a little more privacy, without people constantly coming in and out of the office.

It has its downsides, though.

“The sound acoustics are terrible,” she said. “Everything echoes.”

There is also the logistical problem of being cut off from the clerk of courts office, which had been right next door.

“It’s a pain because the files and the court calendars are upstairs and we’re in the basement, so it’s a lot of phone calls or running up and down the stairs,” Raddant said.

That logistical hassle will continue even after the district attorney’s office returns to its home space, because that’s when the clerk of courts’ office will get its turn in the basement.

Office operations have continued in spite of those problems, with no disruption to the workflow, according to Raddant.

“We can function. We’re making it work,” she said.

However, Raddant said, she is looking forward to getting back to the second floor office and her desk.

“I miss my pictures of my granddaughter,” she said.

Work on the district attorney’s office is taking a little longer than anticipated, according to Building Maintenance Supervisor Steve Dreher.

“The interior walls had been made after the original building was constructed and those walls were all made with metal studs and all other areas of remodeling in the courthouse had been done with wood studs,” Dreher said. “The metal studs presented us with an additional challenge.”

The walls, which Dreher described as “cheap wood paneling,” were resting on top of carpeting and tiles that needed to be taken up, but the walls couldn’t easily be removed.

The solution was to cut a one-foot gap at the bottom of the walls that will be filled in pine and plywood. The walls and the new baseboard will then be painted over.

District Attorney Greg Parker said the temporary relocation has been a minor convenience.

“Steve has been good at accommodating us,” he said. “We’ve been able to handle our trials. We’ve been able to keep the district attorney’s office running properly. I don’t think there’s been any problems at all. It doesn’t change the workload. You deal with what you’ve got to deal with. I don’t think there’s any way around it.”

The abatement project will take a hiatus until November after the clerk of courts office is completed.

“We’re going to run out of time for the contractors,” Dreher said, “because the abatement contractors and painters, when the weather turns warm, they’ve got lots and lots of work outside, and the abatement guys, that’s when they do all their schools and stuff, when school is out over the summer.”

Work will start up again with the Branch 1 courtroom on Nov. 1, which will temporarily move to the County Board room. The project is expected to completely wrap up by early 2019.

Work on the board room is already completed and was timed to take place between monthly meetings of the County Board.

Dreher said the project has moved on schedule and under the expected budget.

“The bids actually came in a little under budget, so it’s not as expensive as we thought it was going to be,” he said.