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Danger in the court

Published: Thu, August 5, 2010 @ 12:01 a.m.

By Elise Franco




William Kostelic, consultant for The 4M Co., places a business card between two bricks inside the Mahoning County Courthouse catacombs to show how much the walls have shifted. Kostelic said the chambers under the courthouse statues need to be stabilized to prevent eventual collapse. The 4M Company will begin taking down the statues and the five granite slabs they sit on in September as a temporary safety precaution.


The Mahoning County Courthouse catacombs walls have shifted. William Kostelic, consultant for The 4M Co., said the chambers under the courthouse statues need to be stabilized to prevent eventual collapse.


Robert Mastriana

The company hired to stabilize a two-ton statue atop the Mahoning County Courthouse wants taxpayers to understand the seriousness of the building’s problems.

William Kostelic, environmental and historical consultant for The 4M Company LLC, said the century-old stone building poses a safety risk because of severe corrosion of steel-support beams that are part of the roof and statue structure.

“The copper-statue support structure is not only the hollow statue, but five levels of granite support,” Kostelic said. “It’s only protected by a fragile layer of terra cotta, and when cracks develop, water gets in and transfers down to other parts of the structure.”

Mahoning County commissioners have allocated $177,000 for the temporary removal and securing of the statue and granite base, said Robert Mastriana of 4M.

The 4M Company began taking bids on the project this week. Mastriana said the work should begin in early September.

A crew will temporarily remove the structure, then construct a temporary roof around the area where the statue once stood, Mastriana said.

Kostelic said this first step is crucial to the preservation of the courthouse’s legacy.

“We need to protect the copper statue,” he said. “It’s irreplaceable. It’s priceless.”

But the statue removal is only a small portion of a

$10 million courthouse restoration.

Inside the catacombs, or attic, of the courthouse, which is just below the copper statue and the granite slab base, the problems are visibly worse.

Large metal-support beams are so rusted and deteriorated that large bits turn into dirt-like dust upon contact. The inner bricks are pushing away from one another so much that Kostelic was able to easily slide a business card through the gap.

Inside one catacomb chamber, there is a more than 2-inch gap between bricks.

Daylight is visible through sections of the slab base.

“It’s creating voids all the way through the wall,” Kostelic said. “All that’s holding it up is the air and God.”

He said it will only get worse as time goes on.

“We measured the gaps two or three weeks ago, and it was about 13⁄4 inches,” he said. “It’s now 21⁄4 inches.”

About a year ago, the catacomb area of the attic was made accessible by 4M, Mastriana said.

“We installed wood flooring in the middle of each chamber and lighting to give access,” he said. “It was a black hole up here before that ... We couldn’t see to address any problems.”

This access to the upper portion of the catacomb walls will allow the crew removing the statue to install cables around the walls, holding them in place until money is available for a permanent fix, Mastriana said.

“The cable will go around the entire thing on both sides of each wall so that it can’t go anywhere,” he said.


1timOthy(802 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Well I'm all for Safety First, but this man and Company have me a little curious. One I am a Tradesman a structural Form Carpenter! Where is the Engineering and Architects at ?Kostelic who works for 4m Company isn't one by reading this article! And one other thing you have Goats Construction Co. and O'horo Construction Co. locals why aren't the envolved? Or is this Company related to someone ? Get the people with the Sheepskins (Egn,& Ach.) involved and maybe this article we have credibility.As for now it has very little!

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

How much money has Mastriana "donated" over the years to the Commissioners?

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3AKAFR1(322 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Save $10 million and move them to the Oak Hill Palace.

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4atek101(77 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

This courthouse is part of the fabric of our community, and it is good that preservation efforts are underway. Also, part of that $10 million could be federal or state money that would go elsewhere in the country if we didn't utilize it. I very much doubt all of the $10 million will come from county dollars.

Even so, the preservation of our historic courthouse, one of our county's most impressive architectural and cultural structures, is worth footing the bill in my book. If you've ever been inside, you'd understand why. Nothing we could build for less than $10 million would ever take its place.

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5city_resident(513 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

So, censoredship, you were being sarcastic when you wrote they should have saved JM High School the other day?

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6motherof3(15 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Topsail, the negativity is appalling. This is a beautiful historical structure. It represents where we have been and where we would like to go into the future. Demolishing it would be the destruction of our valley's history, good or bad. We need to preserve, not destroy. There are so few beautiful things left in this once magnificent city. Why can't we try to restore what we have left? Walk through that building and look up... it is a sight to behold.

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7city_resident(513 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Can someone tell me, again, why we would want to replace this building, that had no expense spared in its construction, with some cheap new building that would be at the end of its "useful life" in only 30-40 years?

When the Mahoning County courthouse was built, the concept of "useful life" didn't apply to buildings. That didn't start to happen until the 40's and 50's.

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8city_resident(513 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

"So now 104 years after the Court House was built we are to spend what $10 million on random project mostly to address exterior deficiencies? That's on top of the $8 million 20 or less years ago, plus whatever regular projects annually are going on there."

The $8 million project 20 years ago appears to have mostly been cosmetic work. (except for the HVAC system) From what I've seen of the current restoration plan, this $10 million should make the building sound for another 100 years.

"The life span of a new building should be far greater than 30-40 years. Materials are much better today and engineering is superior. Even building new can be very cost effective if these folks get realistic. There are ample new building techniques, rapid building development and pre made panels that pack the insulation, cable runs walls, etc. in one simple to plug in piece."

I was exaggerating a little, but modern buildings really are only designed to last 50 years. Modern materials are NOT superior. The only exterior finish for a building that can be expected to last with minimum maintenance is some form of masonry or concrete. And a modern masonry wall has its own long-term problems with the metal ties that are used to hold the exterior veneer to the structure.

The new courthouse up the street, at the corner of Wick and Commerce, is a good example of how a modern courthouse would be built. In 2002, it was built at about $325/square foot, and doesn't come close to the same level of finish as the Mahoning County courthouse.

IMO, the rest of your post sounds like you resent that public servants work in such a facility, or that they don't deserve to work in such nice surroundings.

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9city_resident(513 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Just wanted to add that you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But if the county is going to do something so wild as to sell off the current courthouse in favor of a new one, they need to put it to a vote.

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10vinglass(246 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I would be a lot more convinced if the "consultant" didn't work for the firm seeking to do the restoration. I wonder if the commissioners have sought an opinion from an expert who is not involved in doing the work.

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11picturethis(18 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

When driving by the courthouse last week with my husband, he told me the story of it needing restoration. He said "the statues will fall" I then crooked my neck out the window and saw what he was speaking about - oh! I've seen the inside, but never noticed those statues. Hmmm....so, my idea is - they are BEAUTIFUL! show them off, bring them to eye level somewhere in the downtown area. Do a simple fix-it job on the rest.

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12paulydel(1332 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

The building is a hundred years old built for a 1.9 million dollars. I'd say compared to the life of a more modern building with all the cost cutting that goes on before its built spending ten million on the old building sounds like a bargin. Those old buildings were built to last and had preventative maintenance been done maybe the building wouldn't be in this bad of shape. Harding was another tragedy of the wrecking ball. the architecture of that building was priceless and was built with strong materials. I went to that school and when I would walk there and see it I was always impressed with the look of the building.

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13city_resident(513 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

"Any rehab job they do is not going to last 100 years. There will be cost - regularly - forever."

Sure it will. There may be other issues, but that comes with any building, regardless of age.

"$325 a square foot is simply insane waste. The average person in this region probably lives in a house worth $50 or less a square foot, but these facilities need to be 7x that?"

There are houses in the city that are worth $10/sf. What does that have to do with building a quality new building?

"Big issue I see with the Court House and many of these local landmarks is that they are masonry - often tons of bricks. Bricks settle unevenly, crack, fall out, require regrouting and in case of shifting in wind, earthquake or something else they separate into a broken pile."

Do you see geologic changes ahead? Are we going to start getting more/stronger earthquakes? Masonry is rarely used out west because seismic activity is an issue. Everything else is a simple matter of maintenance. Masonry structures have lasted hundreds, even thousands of years.

"SIPs are much better building solution. Rebar with sprayed concrete is very strong, yet thin shelled and less material cost."

I'm unfamiliar with this building product. Can you provide examples of this building material used for large scale commercial/public buildings? If not, you must ask yourself why not?

"Guess I yearn to head back out west where buildings today are radically different than the waste being built around here."

Buildings "out west" are built differently because there are different design considerations. (i.e. seismic activity, climate, etc.)

"Do note the architecture firm proposing all of this is the same firm who did the work back in the 1990's on the interior."

I can't say for sure why they chose that company again. They were probably hired because they were already familiar with the building. Of course, I think my company was most qualified, but I'm biased.

"Stainless steel siding anchored with stainless steel bolts would be extremely low maintenance and long lasting, as would copper or aluminum siding."

Yea, but they are very expensive. Well, except for aluminmum, but it's not really maintenance free. Which is easier, repointing a few mortar joints every few decades, or repainting the whole building every few decades?

Copper has been around for a long time. With the exception of the Statue of Liberty, I've never seen an entire building clad in copper. Why is copper used even less today than in the past? Cost.

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14motherof3(15 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

City_resident, thank you for saying what I have been thinking after reading such posts. For all the naysayers, your ideology is exactly why our consumer society lacks any form of value for history, art, and culture. Why does “new” always have to be better?
It seems that there is a large population of people that wants to add one more vacant historic structure to the city's landscape. How sad.
What do I know, though, I'm only a mom...

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