Earthquake Damaged Buildings (copy)

Napa County has awarded an $11.6 million contract to repair the Napa Historic Courthouse that was damaged in the South Napa earthquake on Aug. 24, 2014.

Napa County has awarded an $11.6 million contract to restore its South Napa earthquake-battered 1878 courthouse to its former glory.

Alten Construction, Inc. submitted the winning bid. County Public Works Director Steve Lederer said work should begin within a couple of weeks. The goal is for the courts to move back to the damaged sections in October 2018.

Napa County Superior Court Executive Officer Richard Feldstein said move-back day, when it finally arrives, will bring a sense of closure.

“That will be the point that court staff, litigants and the legal community really feel like we’ve recovered from the earthquake fully,” he said.

The Aug. 24, 2014 South Napa earthquake dealt a heavy blow to the 1878 section of the building at Third and Brown streets. Bricks tumbled, a gaping hole opened below the roof-line near the word “Justice” and walls cracked.

Napa County intends to pay close attention to the historic nature of the Victorian Italianate building as it makes repairs, given the courthouse plaza is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It should look exactly the way it did on Aug. 23,” Lederer said, referring to the day before the quake.

Preserving the historic integrity of the courthouse has delayed repairs. Even stabilizing the building took until early 2016, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency first doing a historic preservation review.

Early work included wrapping the scarred front of the courthouse in white, weather-protection wrap so rain couldn’t enter the holes. For two years, people have not only been unable to enter the historic 1878 section of the building, they haven’t been able to see its ornate exterior.

Lederer didn’t know when the wrap will be removed, adding that could hinge on whether the contractor begins work on the inside or outside of the building.

Interior damage includes plaster broken away from walls to reveal wood and bricks. The damaged wall of a civil courtroom is braced by a lattice of metal beams.

Napa Superior Court has had to make due with the loss of three civil case courtrooms since August 2014.

The courts have coped by doing such things as setting up a temporary courtroom in the jury assembly room and using the juvenile courtroom for some non-juvenile cases. Feldstein praised the flexibility of judges, staff and the legal community.

“It’s certainly been a challenge, I will say that much,” he said.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to give Richmond-based Alten Construction the $11.6 million restoration contract. Also bidding were Napa-based BHM Construction Inc. at $12 million, Novato-based Thompson Builders, Inc. at $12.5 million and Woodbridge-based Diede Construction, Inc. at $13.8 million.

State law requires the county to choose the lowest responsible and responsive bidder, whether local or not, a county report said.

Insurance should cover the $11.6 million construction repair costs, as well as an $805,000 architectural service fee and $248,000 consulting fee, a county report said.

This isn’t all of the money being spent on the courthouse. The county previously awarded contracts totaling $5.8 million to AECOM Technology for building stabilization, damage assessment, construction management and other services.

That means the grand total for the courthouse earthquake damage will top $18 million, though by how much depends on any cost overruns. The county expects insurance to pay for almost the entire bill, with FEMA paying most of the approximately $600,000 deductible.

The courthouse consists of three sections, one built in 1878, one in 1916 and one in 1978. Only the original, 1878 section remains closed.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.