Blair courthouse restoration proposal sparks debate

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Blair County Commissioners are in a disagreement on an $889,000 project with a possibility of  nearly half of the budget going towards restoring the ceiling of one of two courtrooms.
 
It’ll cost tax payers about $500,000 to strip and re-varnish that ceiling in courtroom 2. 
 
Commissioner Ted Beam believes that the county can’t afford to do what he believes is a cosmetic project. 
 
“Taxpayers own the building. I equate it to making repairs to your own home, explained Beam. “Would it be nice to have cherry cabinets? Sure, but can you afford cherry cabinets. No you have to buy something cheaper.”
 
Experts at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting say that the project would be little maintenance, saving money over time. 
 
“To simply do a stripping of the paint and a varnishing of it cuts that total cost down by 75 percent,” explained Blair County Commissioner Terry Tomassetti. “So it just made sense to take care of the cost now.”
 
Painting the ceiling every 20 years would cost $250,000 each time. Commissioner Beam believes we should use county money for other projects. 
 
“Can I go up to the secretaries in this building who are making 15,000, 16,000, 17,000 dollars to tell them I’m going to spend a million dollars to improve the courtroom? I have trouble doing that,” said Beam. 
 
Commissioner Tomassetti believes now is the time. 
 
We’re in a time and place right now where we have a top 5 company with roots in Blair County, Albert Michael’s Conservation, a national renowned conservator volunteering his time, John Rita, to assist us,” Tomassetti said. “That type of talent at that type of expense lower level expense will not be available in the future.”
 
The entire proposal also includes repairs on the walls, windows and doors in the courthouse. The project is currently under review. 
 

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