It’s time to get it fixed

Supervisors set meetings for clock tower improvements

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Some of the decay and wear on the Webster County Courthouse is visible in this image.

The Webster County Board of Supervisors has scheduled public information meetings for proposed repairs and improvements to the courthouse’s clock tower and roof.

The public is encouraged to attend the sessions on July 17 and Aug. 8, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the courthouse. Meetings will be held open house-style, without a formal presentation.

Supervisors and the project consultants, Shuck-Britson Inc., and OPN Architects, both of Des Moines, will be available to present a description of the project and collect input from attendees.

The scope of the improvements include the clock tower restoration and improvements, roof slate shingles replacement, skylight replacement and roof membrane replacements.

For general information, supervisors ask the public to direct inquiries to Paul Jacobson, project engineer at Snyder & Associates Inc. Jacobson can be reached at 515-573-2030 or via email at pjacobson@snyder-associates.com.

The landmark has loomed over Central Avenue since 1902, sustaining significant damage to its copper dome and internal wooden structure over 117 years. Further examination by Snyder & Associates earlier this year revealed that the wood structure was the main culprit for damage — not the steel structure, which some had previously suspected was the case. Wood is attached to the steel, and then the copper is fastened to the wood, making the wood integral to the entire tower, even if the copper and steel itself is in good shape.

“The copper somewhere along the line started leaking, which led to the wood rotting, and once the wood rotted there’s no more connections,” Jacobson told the Messenger in April.

He said the deterioration would continue to accelerate, making the Fort Dodge icon a ticking disaster.

The external copper also shows considerable wear with its age, according to the exam. Earlier recommendations for restoring the copper spelled out a plan to patch up the rougher parts with a replacement copper aged to give it a “patina” similar to the look of old copper, which turns green as it ages. Supervisor Mark Campbell previously said the patches will take a few years to look like a match.

A key part of the restoration will include installation of plastic membrane to act as a water barrier between the copper and wood, leaving most levels of the tower dry. The top level of the tower is open to the air, so that the bell can ring. The water barrier will be designed so that water can flow back outside.

A 51-page report on the project, completed in January, estimated the cost of all repairs between $3 million and $4 million.

The courthouse improvements were at the top of the county’s “wish list” of improvement projects supervisors would like to see completed in 2020. Other major improvements they would like to see completed include the county-owned bank building on First Avenue South.