Courthouse: Steps out, painters in

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
D.F. Chase Inc. Superintendent Robert Dexter points to the back of the east clock tower where rain gutters will channel water down a spout.

Stairs to the Marshal County Courthouse roof are to be removed Monday after an inspection Friday and, now that the roof's been replaced, painters will return when the weather's warmer to seal the building's stone face.

Details on these developments come from D.F. Chase Inc. Superintendent Robert Dexter who's been a spokesman for the general contractor, and Don Nelson, the county's chief building inspector since he's been monitoring the project.

Meanwhile, the $410,770 contract remains within its budget.

And while this first phase of courthouse restoration was to have been completed on Jan. 20 - and then sometime last week; cold weather has stopped work at times, and prevented work.

Application of a white protective coating for the man-made stone blocks of concrete must be done when temperatures are 45 degrees and rising, according to Project Manager Billy Gatlin of D.F. Chase Construction.

The work has attracted public attention and Friday afternoon, Dexter provided answers to questions about the copper roofing on the clock towers.

Pointing to what might be called the towers' shoulders, Dexter said, "The quarter-round and the very top barrel will both be painted white to match the siding."

Untreated copper slowly acquires a blue-green patina through a chemical sequence when it's exposed to the elements of nature.

The paint is "to protect the copper from bleeding," Dexter said.

There will be shiny copper over the towers where individual clock works are housed and that copper will eventually age, but rain flowing from that part of the tower roof "will be washing down a gutter to a splash block on the roof," Dexter said.

The visual grandeur of the Marshall County Courthouse isn't interrupted by down spouts on the outside.

"Here, everything is concealed so that all you see outside are the columns and the face of the building," Dexter said. "The roof drains inside the building behind the parapet walls.

"The main roof drains have been inspected by the Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Department with a video camera that ran all the way down" the drain pipe, he said.

Sewers have been inspected for leaks for decades and cameras pulled on small sleds in the mid-1970s have been replaced by miniature cameras that fit in roof drains.

"The pipes were in exceptional condition," Dexter said. "We were all pleasantly surprised."

Finding leaks in a roof has proved to be problematic at virtually all such projects and since the drains are working, Dexter has said he and others on the job believe that rain splashing on an outside ledge of the parapet walls allowed water to seep between the stones and into the building. That part of the top of the building has been encased in metal.

On the ground, Nelson said all the heavy equipment will be taken away next week, and the ruts in the courthouse lawn will be repaired. The lifts will be brought back to put the men in position to apply the sealant, and any ruts they make then will be repaired, too.

Workers took advantage of the fine weather Saturday to continue finishing touches to the roof. A breaker was inadvertently tripped, stopping all four clocks at 9:10. It was a blessing in disguise, Nelson said. Now, they have to find the previously unknown breaker to get the clocks going again.

County Building Maintenance Supervisor Sheldon Davis said on Monday night that he expected the clocks to be ticking on time by noon Tuesday.

Rain last weekend was also a blessing, Nelson said. It allowed Dexter to check the courthouse for leaks. He found none.

Nelson reported on progress with the courthouse to the County commission's buildings and maintenance committee last week, and to all the commissioners on Monday night during their monthly meeting.

The stone blocks used to create the stately facade of the building are molded concrete and earlier coatings were removed so the modern coating could be applied directly to the stone. The coating allows moisture in the stone to evaporate out, but prevent rain from seeping in.

"There are a couple of test spots on the east side," Dexter said of early steps toward application of the white coating that gives the concrete a smoother and brighter surface.

The weather late last week was nearly "perfect," he said. "The trouble is, I don't have enough of these days in a row to complete it. We've had probably one of the worst winters in decades, so it's hard for me to say" when the job will be completed.

"I'm not good at predicting Mother Nature," Dexter said on the Courthouse roof.

During the county meetings in the Courthouse Annex, Nelson also reported on another construction project close to the square - repair to the jail sallyport that was hit by a truck in January.

A structural engineer called the damage "pretty significant" in a report prepared for insurance purposes. The engineer's inspection revealed that the building had not been constructed correctly. Nelson said the corner column was not filled with concrete all the way to the bottom, causing it to break when hit. The truck driver escaped with minor injuries, which would not have been the case had he run into a solid column. Now the Isley Brothers Construction Company are "core filling" the corner column as they build it back up, resulting in a much stronger structure.

"It will be better than it was," Nelson said.

The steel frame for the door had to be fabricated, which caused a delay, but now it's ready, and the sallyport should be finished "in a week or so," Nelson said.