County seeking funding to repair courthouse retaining wall

The Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday authorized the county Planning and Community Development office to submit a grant to the state for funding to repair deteriorating concrete walls flanking the Centre County Courthouse.

The grant application asking for $100,000 will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Funds are awarded from the commission’s Keystone Historic Preservation Construction Grant Program.

The project is estimated to cost about $200,000 and the county will be responsible to match $100,000 grant.

Sue Hannegan, assistant director of the planning office, said the county believes the original stone walls dating back to the construction of the courthouse in 1855 are still intact. The stone walls were covered with concrete parge in the 1960s. Parge is a layer of concrete applied to improve aesthetics and to preserve the structural integrity of a wall. The parge is deteriorating and cracking due to weather elements and the age of the material, according to Hannegan.

The wall is not structurally deficient, Hannegan said, and the deteriorating concrete does not pose a public safety risk, but the parge needs to be replaced to preserve the original wall.

“The integrity of the wall is pretty key to the integrity of the building,” Commissioner Steve Dershem said. “So we need to get it taken care of and make sure that it doesn’t degrade any further.”

Last year, the county was awarded a grant for almost $50,000 from the Historical and Museum Commission to repair the Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial and the Andrew Curtin statue base in front of the courthouse. Hannegan said the county tried to include the wall project into that grant, but due to limited funding the state requested that the county submit a separate application for the project this year.

If the grant is awarded, the state will require the project to be completed by October 2019. Hannegan said the project is expected to begin in 2018.

Status of the grant application is expected in the coming weeks.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi