By Alyssa Schnugg/The Oxford Eagle
OXFORD — Time has run out for Lloyd Larish, a Minnesota master clock-maker who was hired almost three years ago to restore the old Lafayette County Courthouse clock.
“(Larish) has missed the deadline we laid for him,” County Administrator Joseph Johnson said. “He’s missed several deadlines.”
Work on the clock began in the spring of 2007 as part of the $3 million renovation of the courthouse. The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors hired Larish for $35,000 to restore the clock that dates back to about 1872 when the courthouse was rebuilt following its burning during the Civil War.
Work was expected to be completed by Labor Day 2007, but Larish has offered several excuses to not having the work done in a timely fashion, including health problems and troubles finding materials to fix the clock.
Unfortunately, Lafayette County Supervisor Lloyd Oliphant said the Board of Supervisors in 2007 paid Larish most of the $35,000 up front, minus about “$3,000 or $4,000.”
“We’ve had a devil of a time trying to get him back down here,” Oliphant said. “He hasn’t done anything with the clock, but abscond with it.”
Johnson said he and County Attorney David O’Donnell are investigating the county’s options to resolve the clock issue.
Oliphant said while he would like to see county get its money back that it paid to Larish, he’d prefer to see a working clock back on the courthouse.
“If we could just get our clock back,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of options. I suspect we could file a claim in court and get a judgment and then try to get the money from him. But then we are still faced with a clock that’s not working.”
Larish is one of a very few historical master clock-makers in the country.
The county has wanted to hold a dedication of the courthouse, inviting state legislators and congressional representatives who helped get the money for the renovations, but Johnson said that’s been put on hold until the clock is repaired.
Also put on hold has been landscaping the courthouse.
The county had asked the Lafayette County Master Gardeners to design a landscaping plan for the courthouse, which the group provided to the county more than a year ago.
“The Master Gardeners did a tremendous amount of work researching landscapes of Southern courthouses and developed a plan using plants that are indigenous to our area,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he ran into some trouble finding some of the specific plants in the plan, although he admits he hasn’t spent a whole lot of time doing so.
“I kept putting it on the back-burner, honestly,” Johnson said. “I pushed on into summer and then fall came around. And with the clock not finished yet, it became less of a priority.”
Since getting the clock back up and ticking looks like it might take awhile, Johnson said the landscaping of the courthouse has now been pushed back up on the county’s agenda.
Master Gardener past president Don Giles said the group has moved on and is working on other projects now, but they are open to begin working with Johnson on the courthouse project again.
“We’d like to see it done,” he said. “We put a lot of work into the plan we submitted.”