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Courthouse fire leads to upgrades to two historic Chester buildings

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By The Staff

CHESTER – When the Lancaster County Courthouse and 6th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in downtown Lancaster were damaged by an arsonist in early August, steps were taken in Chester to ensure that buildings there wouldn’t be a target. Chester City Council received information from Police Chief Mike Brown just after the fires about a vulnerability at its city hall that could be exploited.  One of the problems came from the row of windows at street level next to a sidewalk.  Brown said the windows weren’t secure and posed a hazard because they were so easily accessible to anyone walking by the building. “Someone could have opened one of them and thrown something in,” Brown said. Since then, the problem has been corrected. The windows were upfitted with metal, making them much harder to access. Brown also noted  that some other offices in Chester were too easy to get into, couldn’t be locked or used pad locks. Those problems have been corrected, too, Brown said. Immediately after the fires in Lancaster, police officers were stationed in the Chester County Courthouse at night. “We had officers walk through the courthouse at night. It was just a safety measure,” Brown said. Brown said he and other officials wanted to take every precaution possible since Chester and Lancaster counties share a solicitor. Both counties are in the 6th Circuit, which is served by Doug Barfield. Brown said the Chester County Courthouse is now equipped with an alarm system. Once that system was installed, nighttime walk-throughs by officers were discontinued, Brown said. Like the Lancaster County Courthouse, the courthouse in Chester County and Chester City Hall are historic structures. The two buildings are among the oldest in Chester County. Martavious Carter, 17, is charged with setting the fires at the courthouse and solicitor’s office here. He’s also facing charges in a string of armed robberies that occurred after the fires.