Company helps county replace shattered courthouse glass

The replacement of 146-year-old glass within a wooden door at the Bartholomew County Courthouse won’t be as costly as originally feared.

Since the courthouse opened in 1874, the glass had been part of the east entryway to the Superior Court 1 courtroom, located on the second floor of the courthouse.

The glass was shattered Jan. 8 by convicted drug dealer Jermaine Ford, court officials said. While being led out of the courtroom after receiving a 26-year prison term, Ford either used his shoulder or his foot to swing the door so hard that it smashed into a hallway wall, causing the tempered glass to shatter, Judge James Worton said.

After inspecting the damage, county maintenance supervisor Rick Trimpe said that type of glass is no longer manufactured, adding that any replacement would be very expensive. Following the incident, plexiglass was installed in the door as a temporary fix, Trimpe said.

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However, Trimpe told the Bartholomew County commissioners on Monday that a local company, Tom Smith Glass Inc. of 550 Center St., has been able to obtain a permanent replacement for about $400. That’s far less expensive than tempered safety glass, which would have cost more than $1,000, Smith said.

The original glass was exceptionally thick because courthouse architect Issac Hodgson (1826-1909) understood angry people would be going in and out of those doors for many decades to come, Smith said.

“I’m sure (Ford) wasn’t the the first person to hit that door in a rage,” Smith said. “He must have really kicked it hard because that glass remained intact for almost 150 years before it finally shattered.”

Initially, a search was made to find tempered safety glass of the correct thickness, but that type of product would have cost more than $1,000, Smith said. A decision was made to replace it with 3/8th inch plate glass — which is seldom used today because there are better alternatives today, Smith said.

While obtaining the replacement glass wasn’t hard to do, fabricating it to fit the courthouse door took quite a bit of skill, Smith said.

“If I had tried to do it myself, I probably would have broken the glass,” Smith said. “Luckily, I have some guys who have worked with me a very long time with the skills to do this.”

The person who actually did the work was Tony Fisher, who said he has been doing glass fabrication for Smith since 1981.

“I only had one chance to cut it, and it just barely fit inside the door,” Fisher said. “I have to admit I breathed a lot easier once the glass was in place within the door.”

Since 3/8th-inch plate is not a safety glass, Fisher said his company brought in Rex King of Indiana Glass Coating to install an invisible film that will essentially make the new glass bulletproof. King has done identical work to glass doors within the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., he said.

Even if the glass is somehow shattered, the film will keep all pieces together, so sharp, dangerous shards don’t end up all over the hallway floors, Fisher said.

Not only has Fisher made the replacement match the original architecture, but he also brought up the glass to modern code requirements, Smith said.

Crews from Indiana Glass Coating will have to work around Judge James Worton’s schedule to install the film to ensure court proceedings are not interrupted, Smith said.

County officials might consider installing this film on other glass doors at the courthouse for safety purposes, as well as to reduce potential litigation, Fisher said.

Worton gave Ford an additional six months of prison time for contempt of court for breaking the door glass, in addition to a 26-year prison sentence for dealing in methamphetamine.