When the Missoula County Courthouse opened in 1910, the walls were painted in dark coats of brown and green. So dark, in fact, the colors were panned and the interior repainted months after opening.
The county doesn’t plan on repeating such mistakes in interior design. When the final phase of the courthouse remodel kicks off this year, contractors will add a fresh coat of paint to the third floor – minus the original dark colors.
“We had a company come in and evaluate the painting history of the courthouse, and they lifted off several layers of paint,” said Larry Farnes, facilities manager at the courthouse. “Some of the browns were pretty dark and the greens were pretty dark, so they couldn’t see very well. They repainted it a lighter color six to seven months later.”
Commissioners on Tuesday awarded a contract to Jackson Contractor Group to complete phase 4 of the courthouse remodel. The company won the initial bid in 2012 when work to renovate the historic building and the connecting annex began.
Farnes placed the running cost of the project at $12 million to $14 million. The final phase is expected to cost roughly $3.5 million, he said, and they’ll continue to look for ways to shave costs.
“We’re going to not move the jury box and court rail or redo the judge’s bench out 18 inches,” he said. “That moving and making more room would cost almost $80,000. There are things like that we took out to save on price.”
Phase 1 of the project included renovations to the first floor of the courthouse, along with the first and fourth floor of the annex. Phase 2 moved on to the second floor of the courthouse.
Farnes said the final phase will finish the building’s uppermost floor. That includes the remodel of the historic Missoula County District Court courtroom and seismic reinforcement of the historic clock tower.
“We’re not going to do the intricate artwork over again, but we’ll paint the wall and make it look nice,” he said. “The costs were expected because of the detail that needed to be put back into the historic part and the mechanical changes that we made.”
Farnes said the project may be expensive, but he added that the work is well done. Asbestos hasn’t been a major issue during the ongoing renovation.
“The courthouse itself has been pretty good,” he said. “The annex is where we’ve had the asbestos.”