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The Volusia County Historic Courthouse clock — which has been silent for about a year — will ring again throughout Downtown DeLand, but not soon.

Though broken and silent, the chimes in the clock — which also displays the incorrect time — have not been forgotten, Volusia County spokeswoman Pat Kuehn said. 

In two to four months, the county will seek bids for the job of completely rebuilding the 89-year-old clock. The county is looking for experts to write the scope of work.

“It’s not easy to fix, because it’s hard to get parts for such an old clock,” Kuehn wrote in an email to The Beacon. 

In 2016, the county paid $2,780 to Thee Clockmaker Shoppe in Mount Dora to replace the main bearings in the towering timepiece, according to Kuehn.

About a year later, the music died. The chimes ceased tolling the Westminster Quarters every 15 minutes. And, the timekeeping faltered. The clock is about an hour and 10 minutes behind.

“Thee Clockmaker Shoppe provided a part for one problem, but then another part broke. It’s old,” Kuehn said. 

Some residents miss the ding-donging; others miss being able to glance up — from north, south, east and west — to see the time. 

Mariah Mann, owner of Got Knots, a massage-therapy business in the Conrad Building across the street from the old courthouse, said she misses the tolling. So have her clients.

“I work on the hour, so they’re used to hearing it like every 15 minutes,” Mann said. “I’ve missed it.”

The nationwide search for a clockworker is expected to take four to six months, according to Kuehn.

The county isn’t sure how much of the old timepiece will be replaced. But this time, she said, the fix should stick.

“We will modernize the mechanism so we can purchase new parts as needed,” Kuehn wrote. “When the project is complete, the clock will start chiming again.”

Meanwhile, according to Volusia County Facilities Management Director George Baker, the clock tower structure and platform are undergoing safety upgrades. 

“Completion date is June 18, 2018,” Baker wrote in an email. “Once the safety project is complete, we will get back up there.”

No budget for the project has been established, Baker said.

“We do not have a scope of work to go out for bids yet,” he said in a phone interview.

Experts and engineers must write the scope of work, but anyone who does so may not bid on the project.

“It would be like the fox watching the henhouse,” Baker said.

With only a handful of people nationwide who engineer and restore clockworks, finding one for each part of the project is challenging, he said. 

Though it has been suggested the historic timekeeper be modernized to digital, Baker said that’s not a consideration.

“That would be the last thing I’d do before I got fired,” he said, laughing. “The citizens would rake me over the coals.”

Before any solution is finalized, it must be approved by the City of DeLand’s Historic Preservation Board, Baker said. 

It’s possible the complex, century-old bell/chime mechanism will be replaced with an electronic striker, which simply extends and contracts. Baker promised it would sound like the old chimes.

“But the electronic is more accurate, requires less maintenance, and you can get parts for it,” he said.

Mann hopes to see all four sides in sync. 

“Depending on what side of the clock you look at, it might be five minutes fast, five minutes slow. That doesn’t help my clients,” she said, laughing.


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