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SIOUX CITY | With a consultant saying a large loose piece of terra cotta in the Woodbury County Courthouse "would destroy anything and/or anyone it its path" if it fell, the county supervisors on Tuesday approved emergency repairs.

The situation regarding crumbling terra cotta in the courthouse changed drastically in one week, so the county supervisors moved quickly to address the public safety hazard.

The board on Aug. 30 heard Building Services Department Director Kenny Schmitz describe the falling portions of terra cotta, a distinctive ceramic masonry for facings and architectural ornaments that is prevalent in the building. On Tuesday, the supervisors designated the situation as an emergency, which enables them to bypass the typical requirement of using a formal bidding process in pursuit of repairs.

The dire recap of the terra cotta condition came from a Sept. 1 review by Cannon Moss Brygger Architects of Sioux City. Schmitz said the piece weighs 200 pounds, and is being held by cargo straps and a scaffold has been placed beneath it.

"We did find a piece that is alarming to us," Schmitz said.

Schmitz said the cost to take down the terra cotta is estimated at $5,000. He said it is too early to know the cost to repair and return the terra cotta into place. There are a limited number of firms with expertise to handle the work.

Schmitz said there could be a few more pieces of troublesome terra cotta in the building, so more reviews will be made.

"There is a little bit of fear that it could not be one piece but two or three," Schmitz said.

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Supervisor Jackie Smith said the county board may delay other planned infrastructure projects for the 2016-17 fiscal year in order to finish the terra cotta repairs.

This is the second time in 2016 an emergency designation was slapped on a portion of the courthouse building. Back in April, a marble framing section was falling off and windows were bowing out in a second-floor courtroom. A 6-foot marble section detached from the window assembly.

The emergency resolution passed by the supervisors said, "Immediate action is needed to protect the county from further property damage and to prevent serious injury or possible death."

The courthouse opened in 1918. Terra cotta was a popular choice for buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Additionally, the supervisors continued discussions toward planning for the 100th anniversary of the courthouse in 2018. They want the courthouse in good condition for that celebration, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeremy Taylor said.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the supervisors thanked Assistant County Attorney Joshua Widman for his seven years as the board's attorney, where he handled legal questions during and outside weekly meetings. Widman is transferring to other duties inside the county attorney office.

"You have deftly and calmly guided us," Taylor told Widman as the supervisors applauded.

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