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Repairs to Westmoreland courthouse will require major work

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
A crew from Raimondo Inc. of Greensburg works on the exterior masonry restoration project at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on August 30, 2013. Raimondo Inc. is a family owned business that specializes in masonry restoration and preservation.

With workers finishing up $438,000 worth of repairs to the exterior of the Westmoreland County Courthouse, it's time to go back and redo inside work that taxpayers first paid for in 2009.

Throughout the years, problems have plagued any repair project involving the building's distinctive golden dome.

Leaks in the dome damaged two courtrooms on the upper level of the courthouse building in downtown Greensburg, which was built in 1906 for about $1.3 million.

Four years ago, repairs were made because chunks of plaster were falling from the ceilings and paint was peeling from walls.

But officials never fixed the leaky roof, so the courtrooms will have to be repaired again.

“They never repaired where the water was coming from, so we have to do it over again,” said Greg McCloskey, public works director. “That was a different board of commissioners and a different public works director.”

He said there are no cost estimates for the interior repairs, slated for the spring.

Four years ago, the county paid more than $55,000 to restore the ornate plaster and 22-karat, gold-leaf finish in the courtrooms.

In the latest project, crews from Raimondo Construction in Greensburg have spent five months repairing the outside of the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

McCloskey said the restoration included filling holes in the building's joints that allowed water to seep into the fourth-floor courtrooms.

In 1978, commissioners bragged that a $771,000 replacement of the courthouse dome would last forever.

It didn't.

Several years after the project was finished, large pieces of the terra-cotta dome began to flake, falling to the street below.

The dome was replaced again in 1993 with a cast-aluminum replica of the original for more than $2.3 million.

With the latest exterior repairs complete, the dome will be seen in a new light — and in several colors. Colored film has been installed to cover five spotlights that illuminate the dome.

The film allows a full spectrum of colors, such as green and pink. Seven colors were purchased.

“We can make it any color,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said. “But I don't know how far it'll go.”

The dome is bathed in an orange hue this month to signify hunger awareness and children's cancer awareness, Anderson said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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