KITTANNING – Armstrong County’s historic courthouse will soon get a facelift as county officials last week approved restoration contracts totaling nearly $3 million.
At a special meeting on July 23, in which commissioners’ chairman Don Myers was present in the board room and fellow commissioners Jason Renshaw and Pat Fabian participating on the phone, the trio voted to move forward with the restoration of the courthouse cupola area.
Bids were opened for the project in June, and only the Pittsburgh-based firm of Miller-Thomas-Gyekis submitted a proposal for the general construction contract.
The original bid was $2,843,000; however, the commissioners said the county worked with the company, which agreed to reduce the cost by 2.5 percent, down to $2,772,760.
Further cost savings of around $70,000 could have been realized by substituting foam for cast iron in some places, and by using traditional copper on the cupola dome rather than oxidized copper-zinc.
Myers said he was in favor of making those less expensive substitutions, while Renshaw and Fabian said they supported going with the original materials. They argued that the cast iron would hold up better than foam in the long run, and that the copper and zinc dome would not change colors over time as the less expensive copper dome would.
“How often do you fix the cupola?” Renshaw asked in supporting the additional expenses. “Do it right. This is the focal point in the community.”
“It’s something everyone takes pride in,” he added, noting that residents have approached him about wanting to see the courthouse restored properly. “Hopefully we don’t have to touch this thing for another hundred years.”
Myers said he supported the overall restoration of the courthouse, but felt the savings realized by using copper would have been worthwhile.
“This maintains the historic value of the cupola,” he said. “It’s a very labor intensive job.”
While Myers voted against the general construction motion, all three commissioners voted in favor of the electrical contract to light the cupola.
The contract, in the amount of $146,850, went to I.E. Power of Freeport.
Noting that the money they had available through a bond issue was running low, the commissioners unanimously agreed to put off additional roofing work on the courthouse and annex, as well as HVAC renovations.
The lone HVAC bid was for $949,300, while the lone roofing bid was for $815,386.
“I don’t think there’s room in the budget right now,” Fabian said of the additional projects. He said that in talking with the contractor, the roofs on the county buildings could make it another three or more years. Renshaw agreed, noting that the county had to pick and choose its projects right now.
After the meeting, county planning director Darin Alviano said the courthouse project is expected to take about a year to complete, and will involve a lot of scaffolding on the downtown Kittanning building.
“It’s a big job and I think it was a priority to get it done,” he said.