ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Now 128 years old, the grand Belmont County courthouse is showing signs of age, including yellowing columns and cracks in its mortar.
County commissioners are considering how they will spend windfalls the county has received through the leasing of oil and natural gas rights, and some of the money could be directed toward preserving the structure. Belmont County is set to receive a signing bonus check from Rice Energy for nearly $3.5 million sometime this fall.
The Belmont County Courthouse was constructed in 1886. Commissioner Mark Thomas said the building "is not in the condition where it will soon fall down," and has been well-maintained over the years. But age and weather factors now are showing their effect on the courthouse exterior.
Photo by Joselyn King/Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas points out cracks in the mortar of the courthouse in St. Clairsville. The courthouse, constructed in 1886, is showing the signs of wear and age, and county commissioners are considering using oil and gas dollars the county receives to make necessary repairs.
"We always have physical facilities issues in the county, and it's related to the large number of buildings we have," he said. "But the crown jewel is ... the main courthouse. It's important not only because of the size and age, but how it's built."
The courthouse is constructed of sandstone, which turns color and deteriorates over time, Thomas said. This means the outside structure must be regularly cleaned, repaired and maintained.
Commissioners will likely put together a request for proposals from companies seeking an expert opinion on what needs done, and how much the project will cost. Both Angelina Stone and Marble of St. Clairsville and General Preservation Corporation of Columbus submitted reports in late 2013, detailing exterior issues with the courthouse.
It's possible the repairs could run into the millions of dollars, according to Thomas.
"What it all means is that $3.5 million we will receive could be spent 10 times over, and it would still be just a drop in the bucket (in taking care of the county's needs)," Thomas said. "But repairs to the courthouse are on the fast track to being addressed."