GATHERED IN COURTROOM 2 of the Shiawassee County Courthouse on Tuesday, May 31 is (from left) Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart, Shiawassee County Coordinator Dr. Brian Boggs and Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners Chair Greg Brodeur.
The courthouse, completed in 1904, will be undergoing renovations in the near future. A two-part process is planned with consideration given toward preservation and historic accuracy including paint color and plaster work. The first part of renovation work will take place prior to the Mark Latunski* trial in October. The second part will take place in spring 2023.
“I think that the historic 35th Circuit Courthouse is a jewel of the community and it’s a jewel worth saving,” shared Judge Stewart, expressing his gratitude to the Building and Grounds department for their work in maintaining the building and ensuring staff are comfortable.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
Following a presentation on the structural and aesthetic needs of the Shiawassee County Courthouse by Branro Enterprises in March, the county commissioners approved using roughly $372,000 of ARPA (American Rescue Act Plan) funds toward saving the historic structure, central to both downtown Corunna and county government.
The courthouse, an architectural fixture in the county, is in need of work. Courthouse needs were initially brought to the board of commissioners by retired Shiawassee Circuit Judge Gerald Lostracco during a special meeting on the potential dissemination of ARPA funds.
Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners Chair Greg Brodeur (R-Dist. 2) recently shared, “When the renovation first came up, I was not in favor of it because I thought the building still seemed to be okay. It was with further discussion and further examination of the building that I came to realize how much trouble the building is in.” Brodeur has stood his ground on fiscal conservatism on several board issues, including the courthouse – emphasizing time-and-again the county needs to always be budget conscious. He explained that he loves the courthouse, but had to reflect on options available to the commissioners, which included building a new courthouse, restoring the current courthouse or potentially “kicking the can further down the road” to avoid doing anything, allowing the structure to deteriorate beyond saving. “Kicking the can” was likely never really an option and building a brand new courthouse would be an approximate $16 to $18 million project. Restoring the courthouse, however, will take somewhere between $4 and $6 million in total: a much more doable sum, though by no means small.
Shiawassee County Coordinator Dr. Brian Boggs offered that the courthouse is “part of our historic heritage,” explaining that it is one of a small series of historic courthouses left in the state. Many historic courthouses, including the former one in Clinton County, have been dismantled and replaced with far less appealing buildings over time.
Construction on the Shiawassee County Courthouse, a Classical Revival building, was completed in 1904. Classical Revival represents a neoclassical architectural movement with roots dating back to the mid- to late-1800s and drawing from a Roman aesthetic model. The three-story building has functioned and continues to function as the seat for most county government offices and court procedings.
Boggs explained that major renovations during the 1980s included a new heating system with a “chiller,” which involved water circulation cooling pipes in the walls. The building was obviously not designed with modern air conditioning in mind. The circulating water and blower system are used to regulate room temperature, but after 30 plus years of use, the system needs to be replaced. In fact, the courthouse needs a completely new heating and cooling system, which is at the core of renovation costs, but replacing the system involves first going into the plaster walls to remove the previous system. Regarding a historic building, most modern contractors are not able to offer that level of artisan work, which is where Branro Enterprises enters into the mix, because they are able to bring the properly trained artisans in for renovations.
Along with the heating and cooling system, some of the electrical system will be updated along with repairing areas where there has been water damage on both the interior and exterior and also work on the dome, roofline, roof and miscellaneous areas. The new pipes will include a pH regulating system to help prevent corrosion, correcting an earlier issue and hopefully ensuring longevity.
“It’s often too risky to go cutting edge,” Brodeur said, emphasizing he does not plan on “gambling” regarding the courthouse renovations. He wants to know what he’s going to get and what will work for “many, many years.”
“This is really expensive, but in effect it’s a bargain because we’re going to have a building for 40 or 50 years now,” Brodeur discussed his long-term thinking, acknowledging the courthouse will continue to need maintenance just as any building would.
On Thursday morning, June 2, Branro Enterprises scheduled a drone to photograph aerial details of the courthouse, offering more in-depth information on the status of the roof and dome area.
*Mark Latunski faces charges in Shiawassee County of open murder and mutilation of a body. His trial date is set for Oct. 18. On Oct. 13, Latunski will be offered one more opportunity to accept/reject any potential plea agreement offered by county prosecutors. Latunski, previously of Bennington Township, has been in custody since 2019, following the murder of Kevin Bacon from Swartz Creek.