By Keith Gushard
The Meadville Tribune
Buckets sit underneath the cupola housing the clock tower of the Crawford County Courthouse as well as underneath other areas of the roof — not in storage for the building’s cleaning crews, but for catching water from potential rain storms.
County commissioners hope to be able to remove those buckets this summer after a new roof, exterior restoration work to masonry and cupola work are completed.
“It’s work that needs to be done,” Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. of the county commissioners said at Tuesday’s work session.
No major work has been done to the courthouse itself since the building was expanded in the mid-1950s.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Tim Valencic, building superintendent at the courthouse for the past 16 years, said Tuesday.
The work is necessary even if the county eventually opts to go forward with an estimated $25.3 million plan move the county court system and related offices out of the building, according to county commissioners.
The county has started advertising for a new roof and exterior restoration to the courthouse building — a project expected to cost more than $700,000. Commissioners unanimously approved advertising the project at their April 18 meeting.
Estimates are $157,850 in exterior restoration and cupola work; $431,200 for a new rubberized roof; and $27,500 in environmental/asbestos abatement. Another $58,853 is set aside for any construction contingencies arising out the project plus $47,240 in architectural/engineering fees.
The county will pay for the project out of proceeds from a previous $5 million bond issue, Weiderspahn said.
Bids will be accepted until June 4 with the county board of commissioners expecting to take action at its June 6 meeting.
In January 2012, a citizens’ advisory committee recommended Crawford County split almost all of its courthouse functions among two sites. The former Talon Inc. Plant No. 5 on upper Arch Street would be a courts center, and the present Crawford County Courthouse in downtown Meadville would be the administrative center.
Final action on whether to move forward with the building project is expected to be taken by county commissioners later this year.
Even if the Crawford County doesn’t move forward with any major structural changes, architect Dick Fox of 1 Murphy Fox, the county’s architectural consultant on the project, has estimated the county would have to spend about $10 million to upgrade the present courthouse building — such as its electrical, heating and other systems.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.