Purnell House Renovation Gets Early Support

SNOW HILL — After getting an exterior face lift last year, the Purnell House in Snow Hill is set to enter the next phase for interior renovation.

Many on the Worcester County Commission winced when faced with the likely $600,000 eventual cost for interior work, but voted 6-1 in favor of moving forward with $36,245 of funding for continued support.

“I want to see where they’re going with it,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley in defense of his vote to continue renovating the house.

Already, roughly $500,000 has been spent improving the exterior of the Purnell House, which was completed last year. The total cost to bring the interior up to match the exterior is estimated around $600,000 and will include the installation of electric systems, HVAC systems, sprinklers, plumbing, restrooms, accessibility features and new finishes.

“The building has no HVAC,” said County Engineer William Bradshaw. “The electric needs to be completely re-done.”

Bradshaw also explained to the commission that lead paint and asbestos will need to be removed to qualify the house for use. While the list of changes may seem extensive, the only real structural changes will come with the restrooms, said Chief Administrative Officer Gerald Mason.

Once renovations are complete, the county is considering moving its economic and tourism offices into the Purnell House. Mason reminded the commission the county has tried to sell the property before to no avail.

The remaining estimated $600,000 in renovations generated some groans, though Commissioners Louis Gulyas and Judy Boggs were quick to jump to the building’s defense. Gulyas called the Purnell House “a beautiful opportunity” and said that she has been blown away by the work done on the exterior so far.

“I must comment on the exterior of the building: it’s absolutely beautiful,” she said, adding that the cost of the interior renovations will be spread out.

Boggs underlined the $500,000 that has already been spent to restore the house and the fact that if the county walks away without refurbishing the interior then the original money was wasted.

“Without that, it’s totally unusable for anything,” she said of the interior work.

The commission voted 6-1, with Commissioner Madison Bunting opposed, to approve the $36,245 payment for bidding and construction phase support to the Becker Morgan Group.