Broken skylight gets county board attention

Mille Lacs County commissioners are debating what to do about the skylight atop the roof of the county courthouse.

A glass panel broke and crashed in little pieces onto the stained-glass panels in the ceiling of the rotunda below.

Mille Lacs Land Services Director Michele McPherson, whose office is in one of the rooms just off the rotunda, heard the crash on the evening of Jan. 28.

“It sounded like a 100-pound bag of half-inch steel BBs landing on the rotunda floor,” she said. “It was very loud.”

The skylight panel that broke is safety glass, so it shattered into round particles of glass. But some commissioners expressed concern that if other skylight panels broke, the round particles might someday break the stained-glass panels and send shards of glass down into the rotunda of the historic courthouse.

And while Mille Lacs County Administrator Roxy Traxler says the situation is safe, the county is not taking any chances for now. Yellow plastic caution tape has been placed around the rotunda floor to keep people from walking directly below the stained-glass panels.

Mille Lacs County commissioners discussed the skylight situation at its March 5 meeting, including the $90,000 to $100,000 repair estimate that Traxler received. Traxler has also received an estimate of $65,000 for another option of replacing the skylight with a fixed roof and installing artificial lighting above the stained-glass panels so it would have a similar lighting effect in the rotunda ceiling.

Repairing the glass panels could be a challenge because the old courthouse is supposed to be maintained to keep its historical integrity. If the county decides on a fixed roof with artificial lights above the rotunda’s stained-glass panels, people would see the same lighting effect that is there now unless the lights should flicker, Peterson said.

Discussion ended with the board settling on having Traxler get more estimates and having the person who gives the estimate visit with the board to give a better idea of what the contractor would do with the skylight.