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Home / Government / Brown County settles dispute over tarnished courthouse dome (UPDATE)

Brown County settles dispute over tarnished courthouse dome (UPDATE)

It’s still a mystery to officials why the copper dome atop Brown County’s courthouse went from having a gleaming sheen to a muddy tarnish just months after a restoration project was completed in November.

But with a payout from the contractor hired to do the job, Brown County is now on its way to restoring the dome’s luster.

On Wednesday, the Brown County Board of Supervisors voted to accept a $70,000 payment from the Chicago-based engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz and Heger, which had originally recommended the county coat the dome with boiled linseed oil. County officials blamed the oil for the dome’s lost sheen.
“We spent a lot of money for a shiny copper dome,” said Brown County Supervisor Richard Schadewald. “I’m pretty disappointed.”

Local officials had particularly hoped the copper dome would look good for photos taken during celebrations of the county’s 200th anniversary this fall.

Now, they plan to have professionals remove dark blotches, believed to result from mildew, from the dome’s surface. Repair crews will then apply a sealant. Unfortunately, the work is unlikely be finished before spring — long after the county celebrates its 200th birthday, said Paul Fontecchio, public works director.
This latest plan differs from recommendations previously made by a local committee. Those had called for spending $40,000 to remove linseed oil from the dome and then allowing its copper surface take on a natural patina. Fonteccio said it would take years for the dome to have a patina that would be green enough to match other copper features on the dome.

“From what I understand, It’s going to take 15 years for that to get to the green to match the lower roof,” Fonteccio said.

The Brown County Courthouse was built in 1908 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The interior of the building underwent $10 million worth of work in 1992, and a lantern on top of the dome was replaced about a decade ago.

“We should be looking for ways to keep the dome a focal point,” said Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans. “It would be an absolute embarrassment to Brown County to not keep it a focal point. Let’s get the dome nice and shiny, let’s keep everybody happy.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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