Thanks to Columbia County Judge Larry Atkinson, we received a guided tour through the County Annex building this morning after wandering inside in search of photos for today’s newspaper. The judge just happened to be on site, mostly because of the series of heavy leaks in several offices.
Atkinson invited us to accompany him on his inspection, and we gladly obliged – who would turn down a tour of a building few people have seen in its entirety? And thanks to the photos posted below, we can share that tour with you . . . Keep reading for a pictorial tour of the annex! (By the way, the photo above is of non-used office space on the upper floor of the annex. As you can see, the windows face Washington Street.)Though you can’t see the drops falling in the above photo, trust us – they’re there! The leaks forced employees in the county assessor’s office to cover their computers and equipment with sheets of plastic to prevent water damage.
This stairwell, located at the rear of the annex building (facing Calhoun Street), reflects the building’s age. Notice how the wall on the right is buckling inward. Atkinson tells us he suspects it’s because water is leaking between the walls.
The roof of the annex is covered with a thick white vinyl similar to pool liner. The vinyl is heated to 1200 degrees and then manipulated with a special tool to stop the leaks. Atkinson tells us that the liner was supposed to stop the leaks, but hasn’t been successful in doing so thus far. You can see pools of water accumulating on top of the liner in the above photo.
Remember those two heating and air conditioning units the county plans to replace soon? Well, now you know what they look like, as pictured above. The units sit on top of the roof of the annex building, and are approximately 40 years old. Atkinson says the units are so outdated that parts for them can no longer be found.
Like the view of the Square from the roof of the annex building? We did! We snapped several photos overlooking the Square, and had it not been raining, we might have been able to capture some really amazing shots of other parts of downtown. The roof of the annex is split, with one portion much higher than the other. The higher portion is accessible by a simple metal ladder attached to the side of the building. The judge granted permission for us to climb up, but warned that it’s a trip that might be safer on a dry day. We are generally pretty fearless in our photography adventures and wouldn’t have minded the risk, but we didn’t want to worry the judge! (Although we do plan to make a trip up top in the not too distant future – hopefully, without the rain!)
Upstairs, in a floor of unused space, asbestos tiles are drying and peeling away from the floor. The judge tells us that should the building ever be torn down, special workmen would be required to remove the tiles and transport them to an approved facility in El Dorado.
Above, you can see the tiles are falling and wires are dangling from the ceilings in upper floors of the annex building. This space has not been used since the building housed a bank several years ago, Atkinson said.
And because the building was once a bank, there are several – and we do mean several – vaults inside. Above, one of those vaults has been turned into record storage. This particular vault is located in the basement of the annex building. Atkinson said that when he first took office, this room and the rest of the basement were standing in inches of water. That problem resulted from street level leaks from deteriorating walls – now the focus is on the leaks from above, he said.
Remember the non-working escalator in the annex building? Well, this is what it looks like from below. The judge tells us that the estimated cost of repair for the escalator is higher than its value, which means it isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon.