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Keep safety, cost containment priorities in courthouse work



Published: Mon, August 11, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

At long last, momentum is building for the long-delayed and much-needed renovation of the Mahoning County Courthouse, the crown jewel of the county’s building stock.

Six months after county commissioners awarded a $510,00 contract to MS Consultants to oversee restoration and preservation of the 103-year-old Renaissance Revival architectural jewel in downtown Youngstown, a 10-member architectural and engineering team from that firm recently released a detailed report, cost analysis and timetable on the project.

The report outlined estimates of $5.4 million for architectural and structural repairs, $620,000 for roof replacement and $184,000 for the restoration and return of three copper statues — aptly named Justice, Law, and Strength and Authority — to their proper perches atop the structure that is listed honorably on the National Register of Historic Places.

As for timing, the consultants call for advertising for bids later this year and completing the project no later than 2016.

KEEP CLOSE WATCH

Over the next year, it will be incumbent for county commissioners and other officials overseeing the restoration to ensure all phases of the project progress on schedule to avoid delays. Too often, delays translate into added costs and frustrated workers. Additionally, leaders must ensure public safety is never compromised in every phase of the project.

Though restoring the edifice to its historic grandeur remains one goal of the project, safety and security for the hundreds of people who work and visit the courthouse daily must remain the paramount objective.

Structural engineers have cited dangers posed by neglect, including rusted carbon-steel anchorages that once secured the rooftop cornice and balustrade. The substandard roof has permitted leaks in the courthouse, including into the chambers of Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney.

In short, the embarrassing flaws in the county courthouse clash with the proper judicial decorum one expects in an edifice dedicated to the administration of justice.

Additionally, the project must proceed without problems of oversight that characterized the last massive renovation of the courthouse more than 20 years ago. Then The Vindicator uncovered instances of questionable practices in purchasing and bidding — including nearly $2 million in work that went unbid.

Officials have vowed to follow the letter of the law in bidding this time around.

Commissioners should keep the ball rolling swiftly on this project. After all, it had been stymied for four years, largely over disputes with a former contractor.

That game of catch-up should begin immediately with preparation and advertisement of bids to restore the structural integrity and the aesthetic allure of Mahoning County’s most prized architectural gem.


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