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Courthouse Repair List Grows to Include Roof Work

BELLEFONTE — A Centre County landmark is in need of some additional restoration work.

During Tuesday’s Centre County Board of Commissioners meeting, it was announced that the courthouse’s roof is in need of repairs. This comes on the heels of last week’s meeting, when it was revealed the exterior of the courthouse will also need major work this year.

Centre County Director of Facilities Management Lee Sheaffer asked the commissioners for permission to enter into contract negotiations for the courthouse’s roof restoration project.

“We’ve talked about moving forward with the restoration of the courthouse … 6,400 square feet on the rear of the facility,” Sheaffer said. “After an infrared scan (and) doing some core sampling, we recognize that we don’t have a lot of loss from the condition space below. We don’t have a lot of wet insulation underneath. This is the perfect candidate for a restoration.”

Sheaffer explained that the project will include a pressure wash and a restoration, using the AlphaGuard system, which was also used at the Willowbank Building.

Board Chair Mark Higgins said it is imperative to get the work done sooner rather than later.

“I’m glad to see that we’re going to take care of this before the roof starts leaking,” Higgins said.

According to Sheaffer, there have been some problems with the roof in the past.

“We’ve doctored a couple of small ones. But, again, we catch it in time. Right now it’s a good candidate for restoration before we have to go complete tear off,” Sheaffer said.

Commissioner Steve Dershem is in favor of using the AlphaGuard system.

“That AlphaGuard is basically a liquid polymer that they put up there and it sets up hard. It is not only as weatherproof as you can get, I’m sure it’s also buzzard proof,” Dershem joked.

Sheaffer said that AlphaGuard comes with a 30-year warranty.

The newest commissioner, Amber Concepcion, chimed in with her thoughts on the roof project.

“Thanks for being proactive on this. Better to prevent damage than restore it later,” Concepcion said.

That was the sentiment at the Jan. 24 commissioners’ meeting as well concerning the outside wall situation.

“The retaining walls on each side of the courthouse are structurally deficient and need to be re-done,” Dershem said. “That’s going to be a major project, a major disruption to our court system. We’re looking at all the options right now and trying to get a better pulse on what it’s going to take to actually perform those projects and the impact it will have on our courts.”

The roof and retaining walls are just the latest work that will need to be done. In recent years, the interior of the courthouse has undergone numerous renovations. From paint to sprinkler systems and everything in between, much work has been done on the inside. Now, it’s the outside that will need some TLC.

County administrator John Franek explained the process of getting the retaining walls rebuilt and repaired.

“We put out an invitation to bid to five firms that we knew would specialize in design-build, which means that the company would have the expertise in-house to actually engineer the proposed remedy to the walls and then commence with construction,” Franek said.

It’s just a matter of time now, he said.

“We’re waiting to hear back from those companies with the proposals. The next step, of course, would be the logistics of it. You know downtown Bellefonte … parking considerations, traffic flow, disruptions to the court. … These are all things that will have to be considered as part of this project,” Franek said.

The key will be getting the work done without slowing down court proceedings.

“The logistics surrounding the project will have to be of equal magnitude to the actual work that needs to be performed,” Franek said.

Higgins said age has taken its toll on the retaining walls.

“Those foundations were put in well over 100 years ago,” Higgins said.

Franek said the recommendation is “reconstruction.”

“We’ve done some exploratory work. We took some core samples of the walls. It’s low-air-entrained concrete that is holding up the embankments right now. What limited exploratory work that we’ve done to this point … we’re not seeing much structural integrity behind the actual concrete. … Right behind the concrete, it looks like undisturbed natural fill,” Franek said.

As far as what repairs will look like and how long they will take, Franek said it’s all very much up in the air.

“We’re waiting to see what the actual professional designers have to say about it,” Franek said matter-of-factly.