Study to look at renovations for top two floors of Darlington County Courthouse

April 13, 2019

DARLINGTON, S.C. - Darlington County officials will look into the possibility of renovating the top two floors of the aging Darlington County Courthouse.

The Darlington County Council on Friday authorized a conceptual design study for the fourth and fifth floors of the five-story building. The study is expected to cost $42,228. The vote came during a called meeting.

In November, Darlington County voters rejected a proposal to implement a one-cent sales tax to fund a $20 million courthouse project to replace or refurbish the courthouse.

Voters were asked whether to fund building a new judicial center and government administration building – either in a single facility or two – and either through new construction or renovation. The vote was 11,747 no to 10,618 yes.

The new study will be conducted by Michael Baker International, the Columbia engineering and consulting firm that carried out an earlier study that looked at possibilities ranging from refurbishing the existing courthouse to building new facilities to house court and administrative functions. Probable costs for projects outlined in that study ranged from about $20.4 million to just over $29 million.

The new conceptual design study will focus on the fourth and fifth floors only, according to a proposal outlining the scope of the study. Those two floors are where the judicial functions of the county are housed. The two floors together occupy 17,298 square feet of space, according to the proposal.

The first, second and third floors, the basement and a mechanical penthouse on the roof of the building will not be included in the study.

County Administrator Charles Stewart said the study will provide only a floor plan for the two floors. It does not mean that a project will move forward, Stewart said.

No cost figures are associated with any renovation project for the fourth or fifth floor at this point, Stewart said. Those will come later if a project advances.

A top priority officials want to address in any upgrade process is improving courthouse security and safety.

At a work session in February, council members showed little to no interest in pursuing another referendum.

Construction started on the existing courthouse in 1963 and the building opened its doors in 1965. The building is showing its age and is in a state of significant disrepair.

Officials say doing nothing about the building could result in the county being forced to move its judicial functions to a neighboring county.