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Northampton County sues architect over alleged courthouse roof defect

Published On: Mar 29 2013 10:50:18 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 30 2013 06:23:17 AM CDT
EASTON, Pa. -

Northampton County is suing a group of New York City architects that helped design part of the courthouse roof that officials say becomes a hazard during snowy weather.

County solicitor Daniel Spengler and assistant county solicitor Martrician O'Donnell McLaughlin filed a civil suit against RicciGreene Associates Thursday afternoon in Northampton County Court.

The suit says the county became aware of "serious defects" with the courthouse roof not long after the $45-million, RicciGreene-designed courthouse expansion project was finished in June 2006.

RicciGreene was hired by the county in 2002 to plan and perform the expansion, according to the suit.

The suit focuses on a pitched roof along South 7th Street near the rotunda entrance, which the county claims is not able to handle accumulations of ice and snow.

The suit says ice and snow slide off the roof "randomly and without warning," exposing people entering and leaving the courthouse "to the risk of injury or death."

County executive John Stoffa told WFMZ.com that when it snows four to five inches, "we have to yellow-ribbon the area" near the rotunda entrance, "because ice and snow comes off in sheets."

The situation becomes especially dangerous when the snow melts and then refreezes, Stoffa said, because "ice comes slipping down like an avalanche."

He said the area near the rotunda entrance has cordoned off once or twice last winter, but not this winter, because of the mild weather.

Dunmore Roofing, of Lackawanna Co., was hired to fix the problem, but was unsuccessful, the suit says.

Over the last few years, Stoffa said, "We've tried putting in one row of snow catchers and then a second row of snow catchers, spending, I think, between $60,000 to $70,000, but that didn't work."

The county charges RicciGreene in its suit with defective design and providing substandard services, and asks more than #100,000 in damages, noting that more than $50,000 has already been spent on repairs and at least another $50,000 will be required.

Stoffa said there have been other problems with the roof not mentioned in the suit.

He said the roof allowed humidity to accumulate in some parts of the courthouse, noting, "We had to ventilate part of the building. Fans had to be installed, and ventilation pads had be put in. Condensation was coming down into the judges' offices."

WFMZ.com reached out to RicciGreene, but a voice mail message asking for a comment on the suit was not immediately answered.