A pair of law firms are picking up the pieces both literally and figuratively in the wake of damage caused during a roof collapse in downtown Jacksonville.
A portion of the roof in the rear of the Lair Building collapsed Monday night causing extensive damage to the two adjoining structures. The Lair Building, located at the northeast corner of West State and North West Streets and runs almost the entire length between State and West Court to the north.
Portions of the Morgan County Public Defender’s Office to the north, and the Rammelkamp Bradney Law Firm to the east both sustained heavy damage during the collapse and have had to relocate some or all of their operations. Ryan Byers, a partner with Rammelkamp Bradney says one of the partners discovered the damage when they arrived at the office at approximately 6:45 Tuesday morning.
He says the historic two-story front section of the building was not affected by the collapse and it is only the single-story extension to the north added sometime later that sustained damage. Byers says although the firm will still be able to conduct operations out of the front half, the damage was still pretty severe.
“There are two of our attorney’s offices where the roof and the ceiling are totally caved in and if you are standing in the office you can see daylight. It’s a situation wherein a count that we did yesterday, I think we had half a dozen individuals be they either staff or attorneys who are displaced from their normal work stations due to the damage or concerns about what exactly may still be going on.”
Byers says although they have been advised by city officials to stay out of the rear section of the building, the front southern section is safe and will remain open for clients.
He says some attorneys and staff members will temporarily see their primary offices relocated to Rammelkamp Bradney’s Springfield office at 741 South Grand Avenue West. However, those individuals will continue to travel to Jacksonville as needed to meet with and otherwise serve clients.
Morgan County Public Defender Tom Piper says his office just recently relocated into the connected structure immediately to the north of the Lair Building that was previously occupied by the Regional Superintendent of Schools.
Piper says his office has relocated back to its previous location at 333 West State Street next to the office of State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer. Piper says he is thankful to Mike Hayes for letting them move back into the space. He says as for how long they will be there, it’s too early to tell.
“A lot depends on the progress of remediation of the obviously dilapidated building and getting some repairs done to [our] building that Morgan County owns to make it weather tight. Our telephone now is out until Friday morning. They are going to be here working on that, so it probably won’t be up fully until Monday. So anybody who calls the Public Defender’s Office isn’t going to get an answer. So if they need really to get a hold of us they can always call the Circuit Clerk’s Office and they can give us the message. Or they are welcome to drop by at 333 West State Street and come in. Sue will be here or I will be here.”
Piper says they had just moved into their new office space at the end of August. The building is owned by Morgan County and Piper says he jumped at the chance to take over the space when the Regional Superintendent of Schools moved out due to the close proximity to the courthouse.
Both Byers and Piper say they are thankful to everyone who has helped them since early Tuesday morning. Piper says he’s very thankful that many from the county jumped in to help him and his small staff relocate now that a sizable portion of the connected roof is now completely open and exposed to the elements.
“A huge thank you to Sheriff Carmody and to Chief Deputy Jamie Jackson. They really came to our aid, they brought some inmates over, assisted in moving things over that we would still be probably trying to move three weeks from now if we didn’t have that kind of help. They worked all day and were just really really great. The County Commissioners have been very understanding offering any assistance they could possibly provide, so everybody’s been really great.”
The Lair Building has been vacant for an extended period of time and city officials say the rear portion of the structure that suffered the collapse will most likely need to be torn down, which will be difficult and costly due to it being connected on three sides to the other structures.
Officials are concerned that rain in the forecast for the rest of the week will cause further issues with the collapsed building and continue to ask people to stay away from the area while the process is being worked through with the owners.
Byers says Rammelkamp Bradney will make repairs and continue operations out of their building. Piper, whose birthday was Tuesday, says no one was injured and he is thankful as the incident could have been much worse.