Archives grant could help City Hall renovations

By HASKEL BURNS,

Several renovation measures at Hattiesburg City Hall and F.B. Woodley Elementary School – particularly involving repairing damage caused by moisture – could be made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Submission of applications for the grant, known as the Community Heritage Preservation Grant Program, was recently approved by a 5-0 vote of Hattiesburg City Council members.

The grant for City Hall would help with repairs to office areas damaged by condensation from the external air conditioning unit, along with measures to prevent additional moisture damage. In addition, environmental testing would be conducted to ascertain the extent of the damage.

“This is the southwest façade (of the building) that faces the Fountain Park area,” said Russell Archer, historic preservation planner for the city. “We had been experiencing some moisture damage along that wall, and the renovations would primarily consists of renovating some office areas that were damaged by the moisture that’s been coming in, and of course stopping the source of the moisture.

“Also, there’s a rooftop access ladder to the third floor that we need for emergency purposes.”

The application for the grant is in the amount of $59,200, with the requirement that the city pays $14,800, or 20 percent of the total project cost of $74,000. That cost includes $42,500 for the repair of the moisture damage, painting, replacement of carpeting, environmental testing, and construction to redirect A/C unit condensation.

First floor upgrades to enhance security and improve customer interaction would run $28,000, and the rooftop access ladder would cost $3,500.

The renovation needs at Woodley Elementary are similar to those at City Hall: exterior waterproofing and repainting, replacement of lighting, cafeteria and auditorium upgrades, interior painting and replacement of door hardware, structural repairs, and HVAC upgrades.

“They’re wanting to do some waterproofing of the exterior walls and repaint to try to stop the moisture from coming into the building,” Archer said. “Also, a big part of this is that they’ve had some foundation settling that’s happened for years, just as a natural part of the structure settling.

“So they’re wanting to do some structural repairs to the foundation of the school. And they’re wanting to upgrade to LED lighting throughout the building, for costs savings and also because it provides much more light for the classrooms.”

The grant application for Woodley is for the amount of $200,000, with the city required to pay $50,000, or 20 percent of the total project cost of $250,000. That cost includes $62,000 for waterproofing and repainting the exterior, $60,000 for the lighting upgrades, $45,000 for cafeteria and auditorium upgrades, $25,000 for interior painting and door hardware, $30,000 for structural repairs, and $28,000 for HVAC upgrades.

Because of the buildings’ age and historical significance – City Hall was constructed in 1921 and Woodley Elementary in 1948 – both facilities are eligible for the Community Heritage Preservation Grant Program, although monies from the grant are not guaranteed.

“The only structures that are eligible to receive any of those funds have to be designated as Mississippi landmarks, and both of these buildings are Mississippi landmarks,” Archer said. “It is a competitive grant, of course, but it does make the field of applicants a little bit smaller, just by virtue of having to have that historic designation.

“So we’re lucky to at least be able to be eligible for it. We won’t know the outcome for a couple more months, but we feel like we have a pretty good chance of receiving these.”