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MERCER COUNTY Courthouse to improve inside and out



Published: Fri, June 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Funding will come from a $34 million bond issue.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

MERCER, Pa. -- Mercer County commissioners intend to restore the courthouse to its original grandeur while making some behind-the-scenes improvements to meet modern demands.

The project cost is estimated at $9.5 million and, although much of the work will be visible to visitors, a lot of it will be hidden in the walls in the form of electrical, heating and cooling systems.

The three commissioners and project architects Robert and Paul Mastriana of 4M Co. of Boardman led a tour of the facility Thursday, outlining where work will be done.

"This building is a grand old lady," Paul Mastriana said, noting the 1911 structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Past experience: His company specializes in restoration of old buildings and oversaw a $9 million project at the Mahoning County Courthouse a decade ago.

The Mercer County Courthouse was built for under $500,000 but to replicate it today would cost between $25 million and $30 million, Paul Mastriana said, explaining it is "very prudent" to spend money to preserve it now.

"We refer to it as our 'Temple Built To Justice'," said Gene Brenneman, chairman of the county board of commissioners.

Commissioner Brian Shipley said $11 million of a $34 million bond issue borrowed by the county has been earmarked for the project, but Commissioner Olivia Lazor said the goal is to complete it at a substantially lower cost.

"This is the people's house," she said, explaining why the commissioners are determined to restore it so it will last for another 100 years.

Some work was done last year as the county spent $500,000 to rebuild portions of the north and west porticos and another $100,000 to repair ceilings in the two main courtrooms.

Those tasks aren't part of the $9.5 million project estimate but the county has recently committed to some exterior renovation work, which is included. That $1.2 million job has already begun.

Robert Mastriana said the entire renovation will take about 30 months.




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