Work brightens dome at Vermilion County Courthouse

DANVILLE — You won't notice unless you look up, but Vermilion County maintenance workers recently relighted the stained-glass dome that extends above the roof line of the Vermilion County Courthouse. The change is visible only from below in the first-floor lobby.

Suspended five floors above the courthouse's ground floor, the dome's design and details have been dark for several years, as the topside of the glass has needed a good cleaning, and the lights that shine through the glass from above have needed new bulbs. The top of the dome pops above the courthouse's flat roof line yet is hidden by four brick, steel-covered walls and a roof.

Earlier this month, county maintenance workers climbed through the access door on the courthouse roof into the enclosure above the glass dome to change the 62 bulbs and remove as much as possible of the thick dust on top of the dome. In the cramped quarters, workers had to walk along a metal-framed, wooden catwalk that's less than 2 feet wide and attached to the brick walls encircling the base of the dome.

"It does look a lot nicer when it's lit up rather than dark and gloomy," said Mark Cravens, superintendent of buildings and grounds for the county.

Relighting the glass dome is just one of many improvements county officials are either making, or planning to make, at the courthouse. A private contractor hired by the county earlier this year has started replacing the roof, which has been leaking for more than a year, causing damage in other parts of the building.

Last year, county officials hoped to issue bonds to raise a lump sum of money and take care of the roof and several other improvements at the courthouse. But without any new revenue to dedicate toward paying off the bonds, the county elected instead to address the most pressing issue now — the roof — and make other improvements as funds allow.

Using money from the general fund, the county board approved a $110,000 contract with Sentry Roofing to replace the courthouse roof.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said county employees are doing a complete inventory of what else needs to be done at the courthouse, and that inventory may be finished in a week, and everything in that list will be prioritized.

Weinard said there are items at the courthouse that are not working and those will be addressed first, and there are large improvements to be made — such as to the courthouse elevators and boilers, which are old — as well as small. Weinard said the elevators are so obsolete that it's difficult to get parts because they're no longer made, forcing maintenance workers to go searching online for replacements.

"There are just a lot of things like that," said Weinard, who emphasized that the county doesn't have millions of dollars to do everything at once.

Weinard said the primary problem, the roof, is being fixed, which will keep the courthouse building dry and sound. He said county officials also plan to do some office renovation, especially in those areas that suffered damage from the roof leaks. Weinard said replacing ceiling tiles and floor coverings and painting walls would not be hugely expensive improvements.

Although it's relighted, improvements to the dome are not done either.

Vermilion County Board Member John Dreher, who is involved in local historic preservation efforts, said he has contacted people who know how to properly clean the stained-glass dome. Cravens said county workers couldn't reach to the very center to clean, leaving that area a bit darker, but overall, it looks much better with the cleaning that was accomplished and new lighting.

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