Logan County Courthouse dome deterioration concerns grow

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[October 26, 2019] 

On Wednesday, October 23, the Logan County Board held a special meeting to hear from restoration specialist Bill Walter of Masonry Restoration Technologies & Services (MRTS) about the current condition of the dome and the impact of doing or not doing something now to mitigate problems.

Walter has done numerous inspections on the dome to evaluate the current conditions presented along with other professional partners to determine the optimum long-term solution as well as what mitigating action can be undertaken to best meet the county’s current needs.

Presently, Walter has expressed concerns regarding the amount of time that has passed without taking corrective action. Ongoing deterioration of the dome’s exterior roofing materials over the years has allowed water to penetrate the interior portion of the dome at a compounding rate.



The interior cementitious properties absorb rather than repel water. When water absorption occurs the weight of the cementitious material increases, and its adhesive stability is weakened. The condition is worsened by the evidence of water in between roofing systems. Recently, this water was released when Walter made an incision in the dome.

Walter said that a coating was applied to the fiberglass in the past 10 or 12 years, but over time has deteriorated to the point where it is now trapping and accumulating water, and that water has a direct route in but not out. Action must be taken to enable evaporation and drainage to reduce and or eliminate this problem.

The problem will not stop or reverse itself unless steps are taken on the outside.

Freezing can cause expansion in the dome materials creating larger and larger voids each time.


Walter said there are also significant imperfections in the copper such as seam separation and splits and copper can be compromised by elements that eat into it.
Holes let water underneath it, but spray on the cementitious material prevents condensation from accumulating.

Walter said he sees the need to stop water from getting in to prevent sections of concrete from falling. Building scaffolding and wrapping plastic around it would encapsulate the dome and keep water from coming inside. More water could cause more falling and postponing the repair could cause more problems after it freezes.

The structure appears fine and Walter said there is not steel corrosion or a concrete problem. The dome is losing pieces when it encounters moisture, but the fiberglass is not a structural issue. Walter said something should be done because the concrete needs to stay dry.

Walter’s current recommendation is encapsulating the dome and the cost of that can be associated with repairs that need to be made. November 1 is almost here, and the climate could go south soon. Water, ice and snow could further the damage already done, so waiting for a referendum or other finances is not a good option.

Though other recommendations may cost less, Walter they have little to do with the repairs. For instance, netting to catch falling debris would go away when the restoration starts.

Walter’s focus is to restore the courthouse, and this is part of it, but he said doing something to the dome needs to happen sooner rather than later. He said problems will continue if the issue is not mitigated, not having any money got us where we are.

Other options were then discussed and are being evaluated by Walter and his team.


There were questions from board members and community members about encapsulation as part of the restoration process how to pay for encapsulation, whether scaffolding was figured into the costs, whether the referendum would pay off the repairs, and the options of starting work from the inside.

Walter said encapsulation would be done in a way that people could work on the dome in rain and snow. The wrap would stay up through restoration time to protect everyone from the elements.

If the project goes forward, board member Chuck Ruben said the wrap or scaffolding would be of use. If the referendum does not pass, Ruben said we may not be able to do it because the county does not have money for encapsulation.

Walter asked if they could afford to not do anything, and he said his job is to tell the board what is wrong and what is needed.

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Image result for logan county courthouse dome site:archives.lincolndailynews.com

Melanie Blankenship asked about the possibility of getting a bond, but Ruben said the county needs a stream of money to pay for the bonds.

If the bond fails, Ruben said the county would not have the money, and then the amount goes on property taxes.

If the referendum passes, community member Wanda Rohlfs asked if it would be enough to pay off repairs, how the county would pay for the courthouse restoration, and since it will not take 20 years, whether there are other sources if the referendum does not pass. She also asked whether the other courthouses Walter has worked on have additional revenue streams. Rohlfs said the courthouse is an historically significant building and if there is no money to restore it, it may sit and deteriorate.

The referendum would possibly provide $900,000 or more revenue each year to pay the bond and Ruben said $12 million could be borrowed. The county has used up the money in the major criminal case fund, the airport and farm fund and all other budgets.

Walter said board administrative assistant Brenda Clark is working on grants that could bring in some supplementary money.

Walter said other courthouses had revenue streams and the Energy Conservation Grant could be substantial. He should know about that one before Thanksgiving.

Building and Grounds Chairman Dave Blankenship said it is premature to get credit until the board decides what kind of restoration to do, then they can go heavy after financing.

Earlier this year the board contacted State Representative Tim Butler and Senator Bill Brady about the courthouse roof and dome needs. The county then applied for funding from the state of Illinois’ new Capital Bill that is intended to aid communities with infrastructure.

Even if granted state funds, the county is still required to supply a significant portion of the dollars needed for the project. If the referendum does not pass, Blankenship is concerned the county may lose out on the capital funds also, the grant may not apply to just a partial restoration of the facility.

Furthermore, looking at timing of availability of funds if the referendum does pass and the county does get the capital grant, if received the state capital projects money would go into a holding fund, and the county or its representative would not have access to it for a year.

Going back to if the referendum passes and that funding, Ruben said, it takes a while to get the money, the county would just collect the money for five months next year. The county would possibly not do a bond until 2021, unless they can wait to start paying it.

Community member George Menken said fiberglass will crack when it freezes and expands causing a continuous influx of water. Not sealing the dome will just bring in more water and just keep cracking it. He asked, “Do we tear down the building or fix it? The longer we let it go, someone could get hurt and sue the county for negligence.”

Menken told the board they should push the public to vote for the referendum and if the vote is a no, everyone in the courthouse may have to move to other locations. The county would have to spend much more for another courthouse, so you should just understand the risk you are taking, he said.

Rohlfs asked how much it would cost to take the courthouse down and displace workers. Walter said it would cost $1.5 to $2 million to tear down and same to move.

Though no decisions were made, the board is continuing its evaluation.

[Angela Reiners]


September 2019 - Logan County seeks to mesh new videoconference installation with courthouse restoration

August 2019 - Logan County Board votes to put Public Facilities Tax referendum on the March ballot

July 2019 - Logan County Board wrestles through funding $5 M courthouse repairs

May 2019 - Building restoration specialist advises to save deteriorating Logan County Courthouse dome

Bill Walter Biography - Pdf

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“With this historic $45 billion capital plan, we’re fixing decades-long problems, creating good jobs, improving communities for the next generation – and doing it together, across party lines,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “The Rebuild Illinois plan transforms our state’s approach to transportation infrastructure, finally treating our roads, bridges, and railways like 21st century investments and not relics of the past."

"The Illinois Capital bill will not only enrich the lives of construction workers throughout our state by providing consistent good paying jobs, but will also enrich the lives of all the residents of Illinois through safer roads and more functional efficient state and municipal buildings for use by the citizens of this great state,” said John Spiros Jr., Business Manager / Secretary-Treasurer of Painters District Council 14."

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