Right approach to restoring courthouse

This letter is in response to John Boors’ recent letter to the Mirror regarding the needed ceiling work in Courtroom 2 of the County’s historic courthouse.

I agree with Boors that the ceiling should not be painted. It is not a smart financial decision.

The current estimated cost for simply repainting the ceiling now, inclusive of prevailing wage, is approximately $300,000.

If you factor in the necessary repainting of the ceiling every 20 or 25 years using the same rate of inflation as the last 100 years, the long-term cost would exceed $11 million.

Even if you somehow cut this cost in half, it is still a really bad decision for Blair County taxpayers.

This work must be done in a more financially prudent way so that this board of commissioners does not leave future Blair County generations with significant unnecessary bills.

We have already experienced the effects of the unfunded pension, the lack of maintenance of the 1875 and 1906 courthouses, and the continued operation of Valley View Home which was losing $1 million annually in state reimbursements.

The better approach is to accept the recommendation of the County’s conservator John Rita and architect David Albright who recommended the restoration of the ceiling, including decorative details.

This is basically a one-and-done job and depending on the option selected should last between 75 and 150 years.

With the estimated one-time cost of true restoration work ranging from less than $300,000 to almost double, depending on the option, the Rita-Albright approach makes great sense.

Of course, the more expensive option has greater longevity and lower taxes in the future.

As architect Albright said to the commissioners, “it would be crazy to consider painting the ceiling again.”

There is a second reason for restoring Courtroom 2 to its original look as much as reasonably possible.

Our 1875 and 1906 courthouses are to us in Blair County the equivalent of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and other centuries old historical buildings.

These two courthouses were from construction the most important buildings in our county. They reflect our County’s heritage and commitment to the principle of justice, as well as the sacrifice and vision of our early leaders and citizens.

This legacy should be preserved for future generations. Painting the courtroom’s ceiling would be like putting vinyl siding on Baker Mansion.

It might work as a covering but defaces a local treasure.

Terry Tomassetti

Blair County



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