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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.

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