July 25, 2000
The Board of County Commissioners
In response to your request, we are providing you with a summary of what occurred on Wednesday June 28th, 2000 at approximately 12:45 P.M. in Courtroom #2 of the Mercer County Courthouse. And, secondly, recommendations in regard to repairing and restoring the areas effected.
Plaster damage in Courtroom #2 as a result of years of water infiltration from the skylights and roof leaks apparently caused the collapse of a 20 ft. section of one of the decorative plaster ceiling beams. Historically, however, courtroom # 1 had many more roof leaks above its ceiling area in the attic. Therefore, as might be expected, courtroom # 1 has the potential to present a much greater clear and imminent danger than that which occurred in courtroom #2.
What is occurring or has occurred?
In courtroom # 1, full height cracks have appeared in several beams and a section of a ceiling beam adjoining a skylight is showing significant signs of distress and most likely will have to be removed. It has extensive cracks and has separated from the ceiling and thus could crash to the floor at any time. Apparently, in the late 1980's, because of water infiltration, a section of deteriorated plaster had to be removed leaving a large hole in the bottom of this beam. Fortunately, this allowed the water to pass through this particular beam, instead of collecting in it. This probably accounted for one of the reasons the metal anchors did not corrode through and this beam did not collapse as the ceiling beam had in courtroom #2.
However, in order to help prevent what occurred in courtroom #2 from taking place in courtroom # 1, we are immediately beginning the emergency repairs in courtroom # 1 as the situation is even more critical. After all the ceiling beams are reinforced in courtroom # 1, we will proceed to courtroom #2 to correct the condition there.
As stated in the publication, Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings for structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places (of which the Mercer County Courthouse is so listed), retention of as much of the original fabric or historic materials is required. "The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided."
To preserve the decorative plaster ceiling beams within the courtrooms requires strengthening the structural support system which anchors the beams in the ceiling. The entire length of the beams will be permanently supported with three steel plates in strategic areas which will be recessed and painted to match the plaster. It is necessary to provide this type of structural support because of the unknown weakened conditions of the plaster, the corroded metal lath and strap hanger assembly and the integrity of the lead and screw hangers. Additionally compromising the structural soundness of the plaster beams was the increased weight of the light fixtures affixed to the them.
What is being done to repair the courtroom Ceiling beams?
I hope all the above meets with your approval and will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.