Near Disasters. Due to
Close Calls at the Courthouse
Ceiling in Courtroom Caves In.
was hurt when the ceiling came crashing down around 12:45 pm Wednesday in Mercer
County Common Pleas courtroom, according to county officials.
According to the courthouse Maintenance Department Director Lou DeJulia, the
incident occurred in Courtroom #2 when a chunk of the ceiling plaster holding a
hollow beam came loose and collapsed in front of the bench where Judge Michael
J. Wherry would have been seated had court been in session.
largest part of it landed on the court crier's seat, but the mass extended to
the area where the court reporter also would have been seated, according to
Court Administrator Peter Morin.
"Judge Wherry is on vacation and the court was not in session," said
Morin "It also happened over what would have been lunch break."
said the fallen chunk of ceiling - which he estimated to be about three by
20 feet - left extensive damage to the remaining plaster in the courtroom.
County Commissioner Cloyd "Gene" Brenneman said he had the room
sealed off immediately to prevent anyone from getting hurt should any more of
the ceiling come down.
does not appear to be water or structural damage," he said "It appears
that it's just aging."
ceiling, as well as all the others in the courthouse, is a part of the original
structure built in the early 1900s, DeJulia said.
don't know what caused it," said DeJulia.
Structural Engineers of Sharon will arrive at the courthouse today to inspect
the damage and check other ceilings for safety, he said.
Brenneman said despite having to close down Courtroom 2 for a while, the courts
will remain on schedule.
each of the three county judges have a month's vacation through the summer and
only two courtrooms at a time were scheduled for session. The two
remaining courtrooms will be used until the third is repaired , he said.
have three months to get it opened," said Brenneman.
"This is as good a reason, if anything, to get into the preservation of the
courthouse," said DeJulia.
commissioners have been discussing the issue of preservation, but have been
waiting to hear if money is available from the government since the building is
listed on the National Registry of Historical Places.
DeJulia said the crews will save as much of the fancy "dental work" as
possible from the original ceiling, and that he will have a mold made in order
to reproduce the original work wherever it may be necessary.
Part of Courtroom #2's Ceiling Crashes. Lucky,
No One Injured!
In a building some 90 years old, it is not uncommon to run into
unforeseen potentially hazardous situations. Such was the case as repair
and restoration work progressed on the foundation slab of the west
The original drawings had indicated a
slab on grade; however, what was discovered was an isolated crawlspace.
Total deterioration had occurred to
the center concrete slap. In fact, only five rebars that were 80 percent
rusted through were supporting the center of the portico. The condition
of the structural reinforced concrete slab was so badly deteriorated
that eventually it would have collapsed. Because there was no access to
the underside of the portico slab, this situation could not have been
discovered prior to work commencing.
Lost lives or most certainly injuries
would have resulted to persons had the floor given way. Fortunately, the
slab was repaired and restored before any such occurrence. No doubt,
other potentially hazardous conditions within the Courthouse are waiting
to be uncovered. And, time is of the essence!
Electrical Fire Concerns
Sunday, Feb. 25, 1866: The first courthouse caught
fire and was destroyed.
Cause: Cooking Stoves.
Sunday, Dec. 15, 1907: The second courthouse
caught fire and was destroyed.
Cause: Faulty gas piping.
Today , the concern for fire is
riding on the electrical system, parts of which are in excess of 50 years
old. Some wiring is rubber insulation which is deteriorating and
could become a shock or fire hazard. Replacement parts are not
available for some of the electrical equipment. This should be
According to the Consumer Products
Safety Commission, the statistics on electrical fires are alarming:
There are approximately 440,000
electrical fires in the U.S.A. Each year (one every 76 seconds) which
cause approximately 1,600 deaths and 5,800 injures.
There is an estimated $1.9
billion in property damages from electrical fires yearly.
From 17 to 25 percent of all
residential fires are electrically generated.
One-third of ALL industrial
fires have electrical causes.
The belief that electrical fires
were more or less an "act of nature" has given way to finding by
the CPSC that, for the most part, electrical fires are preventable - that
there are problems with ether the materials or the installation which
could have been avoided in the first place.
Although a review of many studies
has yielded basically five reasons as the major causative factors for
electrical fires, the ones particularly alarming in regard to the
Electrical fires originate at
connection points, generally in receptacles, extension cords, and
switches and are called "glowing connections".
This condition, only recently identified and named, is NOW designated
as one of the major causes of electrically originated fires in older
structures. Glowing connections get their name from the
red/orange glow due to heat which is caused by minute gaps in
electrical connections points. They are usually not visible
because they are in the walls or at internal connections.
Forensic studies have measured the heat in some glowing
connections to be as much as 1400 degreases F.
Electrical fires start in the
wires and plugs of extensions cords and other wiring - usually from
Electrical fires start from
frayed, uninsinuated wiring.
Electrical fires are caused by
loose contacts in extension cords, receptacles, and switches.
Common occurrences found
throughout the Courthouse!
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