A 16-month, $3.8 million project to repair the sagging parking garage under the Norristown building that houses most Montgomery County offices has uncovered a host of structural problems.

"It has been an eye-opener as far as the structural shortcomings of this building," Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews said Wednesday in a meeting to discuss the garage repairs.

Along with the defective waterproofing, corroded support beams, and decayed concrete - among other issues - that were found and repaired in the basement-level garage of the 10-story One Montgomery Plaza building, a worker on March 18 spotted a brick that had shimmied loose above the sixth floor on the south side of the building's facade.

On Wednesday, commissioners hired a New Jersey masonry company to repair the facade for $18,575. They are also seeking an engineering firm to assess the soundness of the entire exterior of the office building, purchased in 2006 for $26.8 million.

"It's like it was built to fail," Matthews said.

County Treasurer Tom Ellis, who was commissioners chairman when the building was bought, was not at the meeting but said structural engineers had thoroughly evaluated the property at the time. The purchase price was less than the appraised value because of the problems the county found, Ellis said.

"If something was wrong they didn't report, I think the county has a lawsuit," said Ellis, who is a lawyer.

Contact staff writer Derrick Nunnally at 610-313-8212 or dnunnally@phillynews.com.