CHIPLEY — The floods of the past summer caused of millions of dollars of damage to Washington County infrastructure, and when rainwater leaked into the county courthouse, it alerted officials to problems that led to the building’s condemnation.
Not long after officials noticed the standing water in the basement, they also began to notice problems with the exterior of the building. Then, a roughly 800-pound chunk of stone fell from the top of the courthouse. Then they found rotten wood, water damage, peeling paint and mold.
“We got back at least a dozen different strains of mold, five of which were deemed to be immediate health risks,” said Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson, who spearheads a committee tasked with solving the courthouse dilemma.
When air quality tests of the Washington County Courthouse came back in December, officials shut it down and moved into temporary locations at an annex next door that also houses the Sheriff’s Office and the county building a few blocks away.
The move resolved health concerns, but it created a raft of new problems. Evidence in criminal cases had to be relocated, as did tens of thousands of official records, some of which were coated with a visible layer of mold and will need to be cleaned.