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Courthouse woes are continuing

October 10, 2012

    The escalating cost to renovate the Adams County courthouse is showing no sign of coming to an end soon.
    Dave Meyer of the county's building maintenance department met with the Adams County Council Tuesday to discuss yet another snag discovered by contractors as they continue with the final phase of the courthouse project.
    Meyer said as the contractors are working on the bricks they need to remove to complete the tuck-pointing, brick faces above, below, and generally all around the work area have been popping out from the vibrations.
    Meyer said part of the problem is that over the years the courthouse has been sandblasted to help keep the exterior looking clean.
    It was only discovered that this should never have been done when brick expert Fritz Herget of Arsee Engineers, Indianapolis, came to inspect the brickwork as the restoration project began, according to County Attorney Mark Burry.
    Burry said that what they learned when they began the restoration was that by sandblasting the building it removed the protective glaze on the brick face, making the surface porous, allowing the bricks to absorb moisture.
    As part of the sandblasting, contractors placed a clear coat sealer on the bricks, trapping any moisture the bricks have absorbed over the years. This moisture then freezes and thaws, causing the brick to expand and shrink repeatedly until the brick is no longer solid, according to Burry.
    Meyer said there are several new bricks available for use at the courthouse, however the bricks are shorter than the bricks currently in place and the brick work at the courthouse has a very thin joint. If the contractors use the smaller bricks, there will be a noticeable difference in the look of the brickwork.
    Contractors used the smaller brick in a small area then applied a stain to the mortar that makes the bricks appear even, Meyer said.
    "The question is," said Meyer, "how long is that [stain] going to last? They can't answer that."
    Councilman Eric Orr questioned whether this was something the contractors should have foreseen when they originally bid on the project.
    "Now we're sitting here with, apparently, a bad bid, and it's going to be way more than we ever thought it was going to be," said Orr.
    Burry pointed out that there's really no way the contractors could have known that as they began working on one section of bricks it would cause other bricks that, on the surface, appeared to be in good condition to fall.
    Burry also noted that when the county called in Herget, who inspected the building before the project bid was accepted, he recommended fewer bricks be replaced then the contractors and engineers bidding on the project had suggested.
    "Here we finally got a guy telling us don't replace as many bricks as you were planning on, basically telling us it's not going to do any good, go ahead and scale it down and just replace the areas that really need it done. And that's what we did," said Burry.
    Burry said it was suggested by the Adams County Commissioners to Meyer and Dave Sholl, of Schenkel and Schultz Architecture, to speak with the contractor and get an estimate of how many additional bricks may be needed.
    It was also suggested to contact Herget to get his opinion on the brickwork issues that are currently plaguing the project.
    Meyer said Herget is scheduled to be here next Monday to inspect both the Service Complex and the courthouse and they will have a better idea of where things stand.

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