Committeemen to decide today on handrail design

Friday, February 15, 2013
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Architect James Kennon displays one of several guardrails proposed for a sidewalk leading to a new front door for Marshall County's Courthouse.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Renovation of Marshall County's Courthouse is to be complete in about a month and, this evening, several county commissioners are to decide on the design of guardrails for the elevated sidewalk leading to a new front door for the building.

Cost was a chief concern among commissioners on the county's Building Committee when they met with James Kennon, the architect who's designed the new entry, and Rick Daughrity, chairman and president of Orion Building Corp., the company that won the $500,000 construction contract.

Built in 1928, the courthouse is the symbol of Marshall County, said Kennon, explaining what led to the committee's meeting Tuesday.

"Freda said it's 'ugly,'" he said of County Budget Director Freda Terry's reaction to a guardrail designed to support the top of a rail 42 inches above the walkway. It's to keep people from falling to landscaped areas on each side of the entrance.

Marshall County's rural community led Kennon's firm to design a depiction of twigs, the architect said. One alternative is to evoke the image of several tree lines parallel to the horizon. Another was described as waves of heat rising from the ground. A plowed field's furrows are said to be the inspiration for another design.

"In 50 years, nobody will know the difference," Commission Chairman Nathan Johnson said. Commissioner Don Ledford said he'd be guided by the cost. Commissioner Phil Willis said a simple design, likened by Kennon to a picket fence, would probably cost the least.

One of Kennon's suggestions included steel plates with images of fainting goats, dairy cows and other Marshall County icons. The Shelby Street Bridge in Nashville has such a design depicting that area's heritage.

"The workmanship on that is probably going to be more than some of these others," Johnson said.

Regardless, there can be no space wider than four inches so a small child's head can't pass through the guardrails' support posts, said Kennon, whose family has Marshall County roots.

Daughrity, of Chapel Hill, said the project's contingency fund has about $21,000, or $4,000 less than its budgeted total. He offered to provide a cost estimate on various designs and report back to the committee today.

Commissioner Tom Sumner, chairman of the building committee, recessed Tuesday's meeting until 5 this evening, when a decision is expected to be made.

Meanwhile, Kennon reported a disagreement between a fire marshal's interpretations of federal code and the definition of a sidewalk and a wheelchair ramp. Without a vote, the committee encouraged continued consultation with the city official.

"We are requiring a handrail for those who have to use a wheelchair," Fire Chief Larry Williams said Wednesday. "They want to call it a sidewalk, but it's a ramp."

The elevated walkway from the parking lot to the west door has a continuous slope, Williams said. Handrails are required and could be used by anyone needing a place to steady themselves as they walk to or from the building.