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Tower, steps part of courthouse facelift

March 16, 1998|By DON AINES

Tower, steps part of courthouse facelift

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The old Franklin County Courthouse will get an extensive facelift, including repairs to the clock tower, front steps and main courtroom, in the next few months.

"It's not going to fall down tomorrow," Brian Kelly, an administrative assistant in the County Commissioners' Office, said of the clock tower. He said, however, that "It's started to move a little bit."

The commissioners last Thursday awarded a $44,600 contract to R.A. Hill Inc. of Chambersburg for repairs to the tower. Kelly said the contractor is expected to begin work in the next two weeks and complete the job within 45 days.

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the commissioners are expected to award a contract today for repair of the front steps. The two bids for that project are $67,000 from a Greensburg, Pa., firm and $98,000 from a Bloomsburg, Pa., contractor.

The main threat to the 133-year-old tower is a rotting interior timber ring supporting the structure, Kelly said. It will be replaced along with the steps leading to the dome and the floor inside the dome.

The exterior cornice of the dome will be replaced and the exterior of the tower will be waterproofed, according to a project summary.

An old air conditioner unit in the tower will be removed.

"This job was supposed to be done last year," but was delayed by a court battle between the state and unions over the prevailing wage law that put many government contracts on hold, Kelly said.

Due to the tower's state of deterioration, the contract was awarded under an emergency resolution allowing the county to skip much of the bidding process and solicit bids directly.

The decay of the steps is not as acute, but they will be removed during repairs, Kelly said. That means the four columns supporting the roof over the entrance will be propped up until the brownstone steps are replaced.

Repairs to the cracked and patched steps will mean replacing many badly damaged slabs, leveling the foundation and refinishing the metal railings, a project summary says.

Kelly said the steps won't be tackled until the tower work is done. Both projects are to be completed in time for ChambersFest in July, when Chambersburg celebrates its rebuilding after being burned by Confederate raiders in 1864.

The courtroom repairs are set for August, Kelly said. Improvements include replacement of a dozen cornices lining the walls with fiberglass replicas molded from the originals.

The courthouse renovations are being paid for by Keystone Historic Preservation grants, Kelly said.

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