HARTSELLE — Already delayed a year, Morgan County courthouse annexes planned for Hartselle and Cotaco are most likely still more than two months from opening.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said the pandemic and ongoing labor shortage are the major reasons the $1.54 million pair of projects is behind schedule.
The commission voted in January 2020 to award the bid to Decatur contractor Sue-Jac Inc. to build the annexes with an anticipated opening of September 2020. But after COVID-19 put construction on hold, Long said he put a tentative finishing date of Oct. 1 this year. Now that date is Jan. 1.
But Long and District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest said even that date is not a certainty.
“I’m even hesitant to say it will be open Jan. 1. That is based on contractors getting their materials and having the manpower to be able to do it,” Vest said of the Hartselle annex under construction on Shull Road, just off Interstate 65. “Just like everybody else, contractors are having supply chain issues, labor problems. They’ve made good progress in the last month on it. Finishing work on the inside takes time. Due to COVID-19, they really did not get a good start until January of this year.”
Long said residents will have to remain patient.
“When it opens, we’ll let folks know,” he said. “Without this pandemic, it would have been open months ago.”
The Hartselle project is a 100-by-70-foot annex to house Parks and Recreation, the Commission on Aging, and revenue and license offices. Presently, the satellite revenue and license offices are in the Crestwood Shopping Center along U.S. 31 in downtown Hartselle.
Sue-Jac’s winning bid on the Hartselle annex was $1.03 million. The Cotaco annex at the District 4 shop will be a 50-by-40-foot building housing license and revenue department offices, Long said. Sue-Jac’s bid was $514,500 for that site.
At the commission’s regular meeting on Tuesday, commissioners approved a $63,561 contract with Sue-Jac for sidewalks at the two new sites.
“This is the first change order we’ve had on these jobs,” Long said. “In the original plans, we had asphalt going all the way up to the building. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t look as good. It’s a county building. It’s going to be there 50 years or more. We want it look good and be easy to get in and out of it. We’re still in line with that budget.”
He said the sidewalk money will come out of the capital improvement budget.
Vest said the 7,000-square-foot Hartselle annex will be “a much better experience for people. The parking and building will be much more user friendly to public and employees.”
The Hartselle annex will offer more privacy, Long said.
“This is a chance to offer our citizens a nicer facility,” he said. “Privacy will be better. Counters will be set up where other people won’t hear your business. We’ll have nicer restrooms and our employees will have a break area and more storage space.”
Long has been apologetic to Cotaco area residents having to stand in line outside at the annex at the District 4 shop to conduct business.
“The new building will have room to sit down inside,” he said. “Right now, there is room for only three or four people inside the lobby; everyone has to stand outside. That can be difficult when it is raining and cold. We don’t want people to have to do that.”