Courthouse Renovation Challenging and Lengthy Process

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DES MOINES, Iowa - A Polk County supervisor says the $81 million renovation on the Polk County Courthouse and neighboring buildings will take seven years to complete.

First District Supervisor, Robert Brownell, said the historic courthouse downtown is in its preliminary renovation stage. Currently crews are delicately cleaning the century old building, the most challenging part of the project according to Brownell.

Scattered throughout the courthouse's exterior are dozens of face carvings called, grotesques. Jan Fleming, an expert on the 1990's artform, worry the grotesques will be damaged during the renovation.

"We just have to make sure that nothing horrible happens to them."

Crews are using chemicals and sandblast machines to rid the building of plague, dirt and debris. The Architectural group, OPN, and the county assures their process to preserve the history is a careful one.

Besides renovation, the county is expanding the courthouse grounds, stretching across both 4th and 5th streets. Brownell describes the project as a "Courthouse Campus." The original courthouse will hold civil court while the former Polk County Jail and Wellmark/JC Penny's will host criminal and all other courts cases.

Brownell says the courthouse was only designed to hold four judges; currently it holds 40.