A fulfillment of longtime dreams is how Mayor Walter Gardner described the county seat’s newly renovated Town Hall building during Monday’s Grand Opening celebration at 113 S. Bragg Street in Warrenton.
“Warrenton has been in a bit of disarray over the past year,” he said as he welcomed a group that included town staff, county leaders, representatives of agencies and firms who worked on the multi-million-dollar project and citizens.
Gardner described the pre-renovation period, which included relocating town staff in 2012, putting on a new roof and removing an interior balcony to stabilize the building, and searching for funding.
“We had very little success in the early years,” Gardner said.
Money was needed not only for building renovation, but also for major work to the town’s aged and failing water and sewer system; its 10-inch water main was past its life expectancy, Gardner said, and there were constant water main breaks and leaks.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding of some $6 million was obtained that included renovations so Town Hall could be put back into service following historic preservation guidelines, and the water and sewer system underwent a major rehabilitation with fewer service interruptions to customers, Gardner said, and improved firefighting capabilities. Also, new water meters were installed that provide for more accurate readings and allow monitoring from Town Hall.
The rehabilitation project still has more to come. A streetscape project is continuing that will add some handicapped accessibility and change side street traffic patterns, additional sewer line work is planned, and funding has been approved for some street resurfacing in town.
Gardner commended the town board for working to improve Warrenton’s infrastructure and thanked the town’s citizens for their understanding during the rehab work.
The mayor said the Town Hall building had served many functions in its past, including housing the town’s fire department, a jail, opry house, National Guard Armory, a meeting place for Johnston Caswell Lodge, hosted basketball games for John Graham High School and had even sold liquor until prohibition.
Two-thirds of its first-floor space is planned to house the future Plummer Hook & Ladder Museum, which will honor the original town fire department, the Plummer Hook & Ladder Company, recognized as the oldest continuous African-American fire department in the state. Plummer Hook & Ladder Company, chartered in 1868, eventually became the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Department, which later closed and merged with the Warrenton Rural department.
Following a plaque dedication and ribbon cutting, town staff and commissioners gave tours of the building.