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More courtroom deterioration found in Woodbury County Courthouse
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More courtroom deterioration found in Woodbury County Courthouse

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SIOUX CITY | County officials want the Woodbury County Courthouse to look first-rate for the upcoming 100th anniversary of the building, but trouble spots keep popping up.

County workers are handling repairs in the southeast corner courtroom, and other problems have been found this week on three other courtrooms, also on the second floor of the eight-story building that opened in 1918.

Additionally, a recent repair fixed a malfunctioning elevator, which Woodbury County Supervisor Mark Monson said has been well-received by building patrons. Historic light globes have also been getting repairs since February.

Supervisors chairman Jeremy Taylor said it is "bad news" to know there are continuing problems with second-floor rooms, but he said the county will address them. The supervisors have set aside $450,000 in the 2016-17 fiscal year capital improvements budget for courtroom repairs.

Building Services Department Director Kenny Schmitz said he is investigating whether that money will cover all the present repair needs, as the room 203 costs alone could run to about $175,000. Schmitz estimates the courtroom could be done in September, or about a half-year after it was closed.

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In room 203, a marble window framing section fell off and windows bowed out, so the supervisors in April declared that an emergency situation exists and ordered repairs. A 6-foot marble section detached from the window assembly. The room is not being used for court cases, as it is covered in plastic sheets as work continues.

"It was an emergency, it looked like it could go at any time. These others (courtrooms) aren't to that extent," Schmitz said.

As for the new concerns, Schmitz noted there are problems in courtrooms 201, 207 and 209.  Room 207 may be the worst of those three, with metal window frames having deteriorated, he said.

Schmitz said those rooms aren't an emergency situation, so a slower repair process involving seeking bids will be used.

He said it isn't surprising that the building needs repairs, particularly given the years when the county didn't direct money to maintenance on many courthouse pieces. He said officials want the courthouse to look good for the 2018 centennial events, but catching up on deferred maintenance is the prime reason.

"The driving force was the necessity. The (county) board realized that they have a jewel and they need to polish it and take care of it," Schmitz said.

Designed by famed architect William Steele, the courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996. It's considered the largest publicly owned prairie school-design building in the world.

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