07/20/14 — Courtroom to get tiles to improve acoustics

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Courtroom to get tiles to improve acoustics

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 20, 2014 1:50 AM

Projects are being planned to improve the acoustics and to eliminate a recurring mold problem in Superior Courtroom No. 1 in the Wayne County Courthouse.

The Wayne County Commission Facilities Committee Thursday agreed to proceed with the projects as regular maintenance, but will make the rest of the board aware of the work.

The county will use Facilities Department maintenance funds and court facilities fees to pay for the work.

The committee did not set a timetable for the projects, saying the county would need to work out a schedule with Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones.

County Manager George Wood reminded committee members and commissioners, Wayne Aycock (commission chairman), Joe Daughtery and Ray Mayo (committee chairman), that the sound problem was very obvious during the recent swearing-in ceremony for Commissioner Joe Gurley.

"There is an echo-type sound problem in there," Wood said. "It has been there for some time. We do not think that it is the sound system. We think it is the fact that the sound waves are bouncing off the walls.

"Judge Jones spoke to us about it. He suggested that we look at Greenville. They have a comparable size courtroom, and they don't have that kind of reverberation."

Wood said that he and facilities director Milford Smith visited the Greenville courtroom where they sat through about 10 minutes of a trial to see how well they could hear the judge and lawyers.

"They have acoustic panels on the walls that if you didn't know it, you would just think it was wallpaper, but they are sound absorption panels," Wood said. "Basically they have killed the reverberation in that room."

Aycock said the problem with the Wayne County courtroom was that when it was built there were no sound systems. Also, for years it had a drop ceiling. When it was remodeled, the room went back to its original height and a sound system was added.

Also contributing to the reverberation is the tin ceiling, Wood said.

Mayo asked if anyone had substantiated the opinion that the problem is not with the sound system.

"(The information technology department) does not think it is the sound system because it is a relatively new sound system in there," Wood said.

Wood said that he had the name of the company that supplied the panels in Greenville and that he would talk with Jones about the color scheme.

Jones is in favor of the work, Wood said.

The committee agreed the county would work around the court schedule.

The project is expected to cost between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on the panels selected.

"We were pretty pleased with the price," Wood said. "If we can solve the problem for that, I think we have done well. Our plan right now is to do some on the top, on the ceiling, but primarily it will be back behind the judge, that whole wall, and then the back wall because that is where the sound is primarily going."

There is not enough space on the side walls to place panels, he said.

Another issue is insulation and humidity in the courtroom, Smith said.

"The old courthouse section, the area above that tin type roof, is not insulated well at all," he said. "We had it painted two and a half years ago and already mold is popping back through.

"What it is, you have a very hot ceiling, but when you air condition the space below it, it creates moisture (causing the mold). We need to reinsulate that."

Smith said a firm price had not yet been determined.

It will be between $18,000 and $20,000 on the low end, to between $40,000 and $45,000 on the high end, he said.

It would be "money well spent" and the better quality insulation would last longer, he said.