The renovation of Augusta’s Municipal Building is yielding “a significant amount” of recyclable material, but finding a buyer remains elusive, officials said.
The relics include hundreds of red, green, brown and gray marble panels, some inscribed with quotes about justice, from the building’s three courtrooms; a dozen Murphy beds used by jurors when they were sequestered on site; 48 oak and maple courtroom benches, and an abundance of recyclable wood fixtures and metal, including three brass chandeliers, holding cells and a few wall safes.
The items and the terrazzo flooring throughout the building have to go as the nine-story “marble palace” is gutted, said Assistant Finance Director Tim Schroer, who is representing the city’s interests with project manager Heery International and general contractor Turner Construction on the $40 million renovation.
“It would be great if someone would come along and say, ‘I’ll take all of your pews; I’ll take the marble down,’” Schroer said, but no one has.
Ads on the government surplus auction site govdeals.com generated a handful of bids too low to accept, Schroer said.
The government is required to sell surplus materials, he said. With no takers thus far, the city opted to hire a writer to pen a glowing article for the online magazine southeastgreen.com.
“Durable and naturally beautiful, these items can be easily salvaged, reclaimed and reused,” the article states.
Schroer reported no interest in the materials as of Friday.
The ease of removing the marble will likely determine the panels’ future, he said.
“If it comes off nicely in sheets, we’re going to take it off and store it” for later sale or use, he said.
Billed as the finest government building in the Southeast when it opened in 1957 as a shared space for city and county offices and courts, the Municipal Building cost about $4.4 million after land acquisition and demolition of the Richmond County Courthouse was completed.
By 1971, its 90,000 square feet were deemed soon-to-be inadequate.
The building has never been renovated, though the courts moved to the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Building in 2011.
Work is ongoing on the fourth and fifth floors. Its first, second and third floors, which include the courtrooms, are next.
If the city finds no use for the recyclable materials, they will go to Thompson Building and Wrecking, which Heery and Turner selected to perform the demolition work.
Hiram Thompson said his firm will do its best to find the materials a good home, but the market for the reuse of construction materials is not what it once was.
He said all metal is recycled, while the benches will be donated to a church – “preferably an inner-city church, or a small country church” – in need of pews.
“I’m not going to destroy the pews. Whatever happens, they are not going to be destroyed,” Thompson said.