SOMERSET – A group of Somerset County leaders has successfully raised almost $20,000 for the repair of the century-old clock atop the dome of the Somerset County Courthouse.
Somerset County Commissioner John P. “Pat” Terlingo said on Thursday afternoon that approximately $18,000 has been raised from around 50 to 75 donors, both individuals and organizations, each of whom will have his, her or its name engraved on a plaque that will be installed in the courthouse.
The Somerset County Bar Association will donate $2,000 to put the fundraising effort, which had a goal of raising $20,000, over the top. The last day on which donations will be accepted is Saturday.
“I can’t begin to thank the folks from Somerset County and beyond, from Arizona, from wherever,” Terlingo said. “We actually had a number of donations from out-of-state people who originally grew up here in Somerset or in Somerset County. ... It was the generosity of a lot of people.”
“There was no doubt in my mind,” Commissioner Gerald Walker added, “that the good people from Somerset County, now and from the past, were going to step up to the plate and make sure that there was enough money raised to take care of this project.”
Jon Barkman, a Somerset attorney and a member of the bar association’s legislative committee, said that the clock’s chimes, which have been silenced for at least a decade because key components are broken or outdated, are fondly remembered by many residents of the county seat. The clock itself has not functioned for at least the past four years.
“As kids, we didn’t need cellphones or anything else because it rang every hour,” Barkman, who grew up within a block or two of the courthouse, recalled. “If you were supposed to be home at 5, you couldn’t say, ‘I didn’t know what time it was!’ A lot of people have told me now that they miss the nostalgia of the hourly ringing of the clock.”
Matt Zatko, the vice president of the bar association, added that the courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, serves as a symbol for the borough and for the county.
“When you look at the Somerset Borough Police Department, their patch has the courthouse,” Zatko said. “When you look at so many organizations that identify with Somerset … the courthouse is integral. To not have the clock working properly was just something that wasn’t going to be acceptable. We had to make it right.”
Present at a press conference Thursday afternoon were Terlingo, Walker, Barkman and Zatko, as well as Carl Keiser and Gary Thomas, two Somerset residents with clock-repair experience who Terlingo said “played an integral part” in the project, and John Weir, of Wilson Creek Energy, which donated $500 toward the project.
Repairs are expected to begin “as soon as the weather breaks,” Terlingo said. Of the money raised, $8,000 will go to the Verdin Co., of Cincinnati, which will perform the repairs; around $1,200 to $1,500 will pay for the powder coating of the clock’s faces; and $8,000 to $10,000 will go into a fund earmarked for future maintenance.
Among the drivers of the project, Terlingo said, were the county commissioners and their office staff; Pamela Tokar-Ickes, director of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ Somerset County Community Funds; Keiser and Thomas; Verdin Clock Co.; The Tribune-Democrat; and The Daily American, a newspaper based in Somerset.
Also key to the effort, the commissioner said, were each donor; the courthouse’s staff; the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies; the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce; Somerset Inc.; Judges D. Gregory Geary, Scott Bittner and Daniel W. Rullo, of the county Court of Common Pleas; Darr Construction, of Berlin; and “the good people of Somerset County.”
“This couldn’t have happened without a group effort,” he said. “If I missed anybody … it was an oversight.”