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Barbara S. Miller/Observer-Reporter

Crews work on Washington County Courthouse’s portico last month.

Removing four granite slabs from the floor of the courthouse portico last month revealed deterioration of structural steel beneath it.

The portico is separate from the courthouse foundation and the steps leading up to the main entrance on South Main Street, which has been closed for months.

Washington County Commissioners learned Wednesday at an agenda-setting session it will cost an additional $235,000 to repair the portico, where slabs had become uneven, creating a tripping hazard.

This will bring the cost of the repairs by Cleveland Marble and Mosaic to $345,000, and require the lifting of five additional granite slabs during an extra month of work.

The county will be paying for the work from its Act 13 funds received through the state from unconventional or “fracked” natural gas wells.

“Over 100 years, the structural steel has broken down,” said Randy Vankirk, Washington County purchasing director.

Now that engineers have had a chance to see the state of what’s under the portico, fill will be compacted, and rigid foam insulation will be installed around the perimeter of a crawl space to protect concrete from cold weather.

Creating a slight slope on the portico floor will allow water to drain away from the main building.

Construction joints will absorb temperature-induced expansion, contraction and vibration while allowing for ground settlement.

“While we continually strive to keep our projects on budget, we want to ensure a quality-finished product for overall safety and longevity,” Vankirk said. The repairs are expected to last at least 50 years.

Vankirk said he would be curious about what a metal detector might reveal after the sealing of the portico 120 years ago, such as a coin that may have been dropped.

“I’ve been told there’s a time capsule on the north side of the courthouse,” said Justin Welsh, the county’s director of buildings and grounds.

“I don’t know if that’s factual or not.”

In another phase of courthouse restoration, Welsh asked the commissioners to approve a $20,255 change order with MacBracey Corp., Washington, for window replacement.

This will increase the amount of the current contract to $1,131,155.

The contractor found additional features that were not included in the original contract, such as eight fixed transom windows in Courtroom No. 3 that are to have insulated panels, and additional windows in the district attorney’s office and Judge Michael Lucas’ chambers.

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