Cracks close courthouse
SUNBURY - Historic Northumberland County Courthouse, which was evacuated Monday morning after cracks were discovered on the second and fourth floors, was scheduled to reopen today after an inspection revealed the damage was cosmetic rather than structural.
County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi, who was discharged from Pinnacle Hospital in Harrisburg Friday night after being afflicted with diverticulitis, said an architect and engineer from Larson Design Group, Williamsport, inspected the 149-year-old courthouse in the afternoon and determined it was safe to reopen for business today.
Clausi said, "We closed the courthouse in the best interests of the employees and taxpayers after cracks were discovered. We didn't want to take any chances. After a thorough inspection of the building by myself and officials from Larson Design Group, it was determined that the damage was cosmetic rather than structural. I'm happy it wasn't a disaster, but in my professional opinion as a contractor, it will cost an estimated $50,000 to correct the problem."
The commissioner said work will be done on the building once the county receives a recommendation from an engineer on how to proceed with the repairs.
Deputy sheriff Dwayne Pidcoe discovered a crack about 10:15 a.m. in the marble baseboard on the second floor between Courtrooms 1 and 2 in an area outside a stairwell that leads to a detention cell in the sheriff's office on the first floor.
Pidcoe notified court administrator Brandy Yasenchak, who immediately contacted Clausi about the problem. Clausi, who just returned to work Monday, quickly responded and further inspected the property with Pidcoe, Yasenchak and other county officials.
In addition to the crack on the marble baseboard that appeared to be slanted or sinking on the second floor, Yasenchak said cracks were discovered in the walls and ceiling in a small attic area on the fourth floor of the courthouse, which was built in 1865.
She said approximately 40 employees and citizens were evacuated at about 11:30 a.m. Sheriff Robert Wolfe and his deputies assisted with the smooth evacuation process.
Fortunately, Yasenchak said there was a light case load Monday. She said President Judge William H. Wiest is on vacation, while Judge Charles Saylor only had legal proceedings in the morning. Hearing officer Marsha Skoff was scheduled to conduct custody mediation hearings in the afternoon, but those proceedings had to be postponed.
Anyone involved in an emergency protection from abuse case in the afternoon was referred to the office of Magisterial District Judge Benjamin Apfelbaum in the county administration building across town.
Two signs were posted on the front doors of the courthouse notifying the public about its closure.