Nobody checked with the pigeons

Franklin County voters approved a $10.2 million bond to restore their beautiful courthouse in 2002.

It had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, but by then the years had taken their toll.

By 2006, the restoration project was completed. And a marvel it is. Restored to the 1912 architect's plans, the building with its stone floors, colorful windows and light, airy atmosphere is a genuine treasure.

The interior of the dome -- the Tiffany stained glass hemisphere -- actually "floats" on dozens of tiny points to keep the glass from cracking.

There is no such mechanism to protect the dome's exterior from its chief scourge: pigeons.

"Flying rats" some call them. They're "doves" to others but pigeons to most of us.

By any name they do what pigeons do.

And when they do, there is a chemical reaction with the polished copper dome that eventually, if unchecked, will turn Franklin County's showcase into a soiled mess.

Since the pigeons roost over the entrance to the building, there are also smatterings of their leavings on the brick and stone work of the building.

A Seattle company was paid a good fee to fix the problem. If any of it made a difference, it wasn't much.

Now the company, National Bird Control Inc., is back on its own to try to thwart the birds.

Ideas tried so far include noise makers, electric wires and nearly invisible netting.

The pigeons, undeterred, go about the business of reproducing, finding food where they can and leaving reminders of their presence on the courthouse steps, walls, roof and windows. And occasionally on the odd taxpayer.

We have no suggestions for how to cope with the problem, but we aren't willing to rule out lethal force. The common rock pigeon is hardly an endangered species. They're found in virtually every city on the planet and in a lot of wild places, too.

Former Benton County Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. found an effective, if controversial, way to deal with a skunk at the courthouse in Prosser. He shot it.

But one skunk and dozens of birds are two different things.

Franklin County could consider itself lucky in comparison to Miami.

There, the Dade County Courthouse has been home for more than 50 years to large buzzards that swoop among its updrafts despite efforts to get them to move on.

The courthouse buzzards, it is said, invite insulting comparisons to the lawyers who get to go inside the building.

Somehow, all this reminds us of the famed movie by Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds.

In it, Tippi Hedren and others are driven nearly insane by flocks of birds gathering all around a little town.

Who knows, maybe the buzzards and the pigeons saw it, too.