BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (April 7) — Emergency personnel were recently dispatched to the Weakley County Courthouse, due to an elevator malfunction that prevented the doors from opening and left people trapped inside.
According to Dresden Fire Chief Paul Hutcherson, on Tuesday, April 7, six Dresden firefighters responded to the courthouse with rescue equipment. He stated, after only a few minutes, the firefighters managed to use their tools to open the doors and free two construction workers trapped inside the elevator near the basement level. The workers are part of the crew involved in renovating the courthouse.
Chief Hutcherson explained the elevator stopped a short distance from the basement floor, which caused the doors to remain closed.
As a built-in safety feature, elevator doors are designed to remain closed until the floor of the elevator is at the same level as the floor of the building it stops on.
“They were very calm the whole time and were very professional, but were happy to be out of the elevator,” Chief Hutcherson said.
While Dresden firefighters were at the scene, they inspected the entire building for fire danger, including the roof.
“We then turned it over to maintenance personnel, who contacted the elevator company to come and see what the problem was,” Chief Hutcherson said.
Members of the Dresden Police Department and Weakley County Sheriff’s Department were also present to offer their assistance.
According to Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum, following the incident, Cone Elevator Company inspected the elevator. Fortunately, there were no expensive repairs needed. The problem causing the elevator to malfunction was just a blown fuse.
An elevator, which had hand-operated wire-mesh doors, was installed when the courthouse was constructed in 1950. It has since been upgraded to the elevator currently in use.
“It’s an old elevator, so occasionally, it doesn’t work for a period of time, but that’s not a regular occurrence,” Mayor Bynum said. “However, at some point, it’s just going to wear out, and we’re going to have to replace it.”
He noted replacing the elevator is an issue that comes up every year during budget meetings.
Certain parts are no longer available for the older model elevator, and once a major breakdown occurs, the elevator must be replaced. Installing a new elevator is estimated to cost $250,000 to $300,000.
Mayor Bynum noted when it gets to the point the elevator stops working and it can’t be repaired, it would become an ADA compliance issue. This makes it even more important that the elevator be kept in operation, so those with disabilities will continue to have access to all floors of the courthouse.
“At this point, we’re not advocating to replace the elevator, but commissioners need to be aware that when we have issues in the building, we have to address them as they come,” Mayor Bynum said.
The courthouse renovation project now underway does not include replacing the antiquated elevator.
The mayor mentioned there is still much work to be completed as part of the courthouse renovation project. “They’re still working to replace pipe on the third floor and then they’ll start working in the basement,” Mayor Bynum said.
Improvements included in the current courthouse renovation project include replacing the HVAC and heating systems. “Additionally, we are replacing the lights in all county buildings, except for the schools, with LED lighting,” Mayor Bynum said. He noted Henson Construction is the construction manager for the project. Pack HVAC Services is installing the new HVAC system and Garrett Heating and Plumbing is tasked with replacing the heating system.
“We don’t anticipate the work to be completed until June of this year,” Mayor Bynum said.
The Weakley County Courthouse remains closed due to Gov. Bill Lee’s stay-at-home order restricting access to public buildings. However, Weakley County Government departments are still operational to serve local citizens. The courthouse and county building services action plan is as follows:
• Citizens are urged to call or email departments prior to traveling to any of the governmental offices located inside the courthouse. There may be a way these county employees can help area residents from their homes.
• At the courthouse, documents may be placed in the red drop box located at the front door on the south side of the courthouse (Governor Ned Ray McWherter statue side). To ensure quick processing, after making a deposit, please call (731) 364-5414 to inform the department of the deposit.
• Labeled payment boxes are also attached to the building. Payments will only be accepted during business hours, from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. For the protection of the citizens, payment boxes will not be available for making deposits after business hours. Again, to ensure quick processing: after placing a payment into the box, please call (731) 364-5414 to inform the department of the deposit.
• A new centralized phone number, (731) 364-5414, provides callers with a list of all departments in the courthouse.
• The doors on the south side of the courthouse serves as a public notice board for information about various departments.
• A locked dropbox is available outside the Weakley County Election Office. Call them at (731) 364-5564, if specific help is needed or to answer questions.
• A list of all departments, contact phone numbers, email listings and more can be found on the homepage of the Weakley County Government’s website, weakleycountytn.gov.
For the most up-to-date information and changes, citizens are encouraged to follow developments on Facebook at facebook.com/weakleycounty, and on Twitter @weakleycountytn.
BY DAVID FISHER