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Town buildings assessment off to a rough start

June 17, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The town's effort to develop a management plan for its buildings produced its first milestone in May with the release of a draft report on the condition of the Public Safety building.

The building report, prepared by Bergeron Technical Services of North Conway, identified a number of problems that had been reported before and remain unsolved, and this drew sharp responses from Selectmen Sarah Silk and Linda Murray when the report was presented to selectmen on May 19.

The need for a comprehensive evaluation of all of the town's buildings was first recommended by the planning board's Capital Improvements Plan committee as the first step in creating a Municipal Assets Management Plan. Selectmen responded to this request in 2008 and came up with Article 20 on the 2009 warrant, which called for $80,000 "to obtain a professional evaluation of the conditions of …Town Buildings…identify and prioritize issues of concern and list required upgrades and their costs to protect the Town's assets, make them more energy efficient and to develop a long-term Building Facilities Capital Assets Management Plan." The article specifically targeted the railroad station, Dockside, the Community Center, Library, Libby Museum, Public Safety Building, highway garages and the solid waste facility, Voters rejected the article by a voter of 1,202 to 1,002, while approving $145,000 to make repairs to the railroad station.

When repairs were started on the railroad station and number of previously-unidentified issues – including asbestos and lead paint – surfaced and only part of the repairs could be completed within the $145,000 budget because of the cost of addressing these hidden problems. This experience underlined the need for a comprehensive evaluation, so on the 2010 warrant Article 18 asked for $60,000 for the same purpose as 2009's Article 20, except that the railroad station, Community Center and library were dropped from the list. The article passed this time, 912 to 561.

Bergeron Technical Services, which had evaluated the railroad station last year, got the contract to evaluate the six buildings and started with the Public Safety Building.

Bergeron's draft report identified six areas where action needs to be taken and identified six specific life safety code violations. The six problem areas were structural masonry, the apparatus bay floor slabs, masonry veneer, electrical, HVAC systems and insulation. The six code violations concerned access (entry and exit) to residential areas of the building, unsafe detention cells, lack of two-hour fire barriers in key areas and "unprotected storage of oxygen and ammunition."


Murray pointed out that many of the issues identified in the report were touched on in a 2003 study of the building. The lack of attention to these problems bothered her and she said she wanted to make sure the problems were fixed this time.

Silk zeroed in on the poor, substandard workmanship the report uncovered and questioned whether the contractors who did the work should be used again. She asked if Bergeron had been given a copy of the 2003 study.

Public Works Director Dave Ford responded that the focus of the report and the overall building assessment process was to identify issues present today and highlight areas where the building does not meet current code. It was not intended to highlight longstanding problems that had been reported in the past.

He also pointed out that the report was a draft that was being shared with the police and fire departments, who will respond to Bergeron before a final version of the report will be issued.

Ford said many of the minor issues identified are being addressed, and those that can be corrected within the current budget will be corrected. However, there are major problems with the fire apparatus bays. "Do you fix them or knock them down and rebuild," he asked.

There are long-term implications to any proposed solution and Ford wondered how to present any proposed corrections to the major problems: should each department make its own proposals, with cost estimates, or should there be one warrant article?

The board agreed to wait for the final report before trying to answer that question.

According to Ford on June 16, Bergeron has just turned in draft reports on the Libby Museum and the Dockside Restaurant. Those reports will also be reviewed and presented to selectmen shortly, and Bergeron will go on to inspect the highway garages and solid waste facility.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Garnett Hill
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