DOWNTOWN Courthouse is popular pigeon spot
The pigeon-proof netting has been on the back burner since 2001.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The saying goes that birds of a feather flock together.
Some Mahoning County officials say there are too many birds of the pigeon variety flocking to the courthouse and roosting there.
"It's disgusting," Judge Maureen A. Cronin said of the pigeon population. "Why don't we maintain this beautiful building?"
Pigeons have built a nest on a ledge just outside the window of Judge Cronin's offices on the building's second floor. Two baby birds recently hatched and spend their days huddled in the nest, which is surrounded by pigeon droppings.
The gray-feathered birds also roost and nest on window ledges all around the building. Walls, ledges and the ground below are littered with pigeon droppings, which Judge Cronin said is a health hazard as well as an eyesore.
Pigeons have been a recurring problem at the courthouse and in downtown Youngstown for years. In 1977, city officials used corn laced with strychnine to poison the birds, which prompted an animal rights group to sue on the grounds that the measure was inhumane.
Former common pleas Judge Sidney Rigelhaupt ruled that pigeons have no civil rights and allowed the practice to continue.
His ruling was upheld by the 7th District Court of Appeals, but was later overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court.
When the courthouse was renovated in the late 1980s, special netting was hung over the places where the birds roosted.
The netting kept the birds from landing on the building and ended the problem.
But after more than a dozen years of use, the netting wore and tore and was no longer effective. In 2001, commissioners and their staff started looking for new netting, but it still hasn't been bought and the birds are back in town.
Commissioner David Ludt said he has pressed the issue for years, asking facilities director Richard Malagisi weekly why the netting hasn't been bought and installed.
"We have a beautiful courthouse. Let's maintain it right," Ludt said.
Malagisi said the netting is made overseas and is available only through a supplier in California. The $15,000 cost would have to come out of the county's general fund.
"Give me the money and I'll order it tomorrow," Malagisi said. With the county's constricted budget, Malagisi said he couldn't justify spending the money for bird netting when there were other more pressing needs.
Judge Cronin said the blame rests with commissioners since they are charged with care of the building.
"I'm tired of excuses," Judge Cronin said. "The commissioners are in charge of the building. They either maintain it or they don't."