Structural engineer says gym floor unsafe
By Bert Lehman
Use of the gym area at the Clintonville Rec Center has been halted after the city of Clintonville learned the gym floor is unsafe.
The issue with the gym floor was discovered during inspections by Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. The inspections were part of a CDBG grant to develop a downtown master plan for the city. The Rec Center was one of the buildings inspected as part of that grant, in an effort to determine the future of the building.
“We’re trying to decide whether this is something the city can or wants to feasibly save,” Sharon Eveland, city administrator for the city of Clintonville, told the Clintonville Facilities Committee prior to the presentation by Short Elliott Hendrickson on June 7.
Pat Fehrenbach, senior architect for Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., the company that generated the condition report for the Rec Center, told the committee that he has inspected the building three times last year and twice so far this year.
During those inspections he was accompanied with a structural engineer, HVAC engineer, plumbing engineer and an electrical engineer. The findings from all the engineers were compiled into one report that he presented to the committee.
“There’s a considerable amount of problems with the building that we’ve discovered when we went through it,” Fehrenbach said.
Fehrenbach said the first issue with the building is that it is not handicap-accessible. Even though the building isn’t accessible, the city is not in violation of code because the building met code when it was built.
“But if you stick money into the building or significantly remodel it, then the code obligates you to make the upgrades for the adaptations for the handicapped to make it accessible,” Fehrenbach said.
The committee was informed the structural engineer found significant issues with the building. Structural repairs to the building would amount to $150,000 to $700,000, Fehrenbach said.
The main structural issue involves the gym floor. Fehrenbach said the gym floor has steel framing with wood supports running between the framing to support the floor. Each wood support is notched with the notch of wood setting on top of the frame. The weight on the floor has caused the wood supports to split.
Because of safety concerns the structural engineer told Fehrenbach that the city should not hold large events that utilize the gym floor.
The stage in the building is seeing the same type of damage to its supports underneath it.
Fehrenbach said the roof on the second floor also concerns him.
“It’s stood the test of time, but something could happen,” he said.
When the building was built it met all structural codes, Fehrenbach said, but as with the handicap accessibility, if the city does a major remodel of the building it would have to bring the building up to structural codes.
The roof over the gym has leaked, Fehrenbach said. He added if the city wanted to keep the building useable, the steel beams in the roof above the gym would need to be checked for rust. Those repairs could amount to $100,000 to $500,000.
Fehrenbach also had safety concerns about the outside of the building where concrete is falling off the sides of the building. This isn’t a structural issue, just a safety issue of falling debris. He said based on the original drawings for the building, the outside of the building was supposed to be all brick. That was changed sometime before the building was built, probably to save money.
The roof on part of the building needs to be replaced, Fehrenbach said.
Since the two bathrooms in the building are on different floors, one would have to be moved so they are on the same floor. This could cost $90,000.
The building still utilizes the original boiler. Updating the system is estimated to cost $130,000, while replacing the system is estimated to cost $220,000.
“It’s doing the job but it’s all on or all off,” Fehrenbach said.
The electrical system for the building is also original. Updating the electrical system is estimated to cost $88,000 and replacing the electrical system is estimated to cost $330,000.
Upgrades to the plumbing system are also needed, and a fire sprinkler system has to be added if major remodeling is done to the building. A fire sprinkler system would cost $125,000.
According to the report given to the committee, Fehrenbach said “base” repairs to the building are estimated to be around $739,000. This figure does not include what it would cost to also make the building handicap accessible.
An extensive remodel of the building is estimated to be around $2.5 million.
The committee was informed it would cost around $160,000 to demolish the existing 22,200-square-foot building.
Fehrenbach told the committee that it would cost $4-$5 million to build a new building of similar size and function.
“It’s a great old building,” he said. “I hate to suggest that buildings be tore down. I love old buildings and the historical aspect of it, but you have to weigh the pros and cons. If you stick the money into it now, how long is that going to get us down the road?”
Fehrenbach recommended that the city not use the building for summer gymnastics, which is scheduled to start in mid-June.
With knowledge that the gym floor is a safety hazard, committee member Lance Bagstad said in his opinion the city cannot use the gym portion of the building due to liability issues.
He added that it might be time for the city and school district to work together to provide programs in the school district buildings.
Bagstad said constituents he has spoken to don’t want the city to put money into the Rec Center building.
Committee member Mike Hankins agreed with Bagstad’s assessment that it might be time for the city and school district to work together.
Fehrenbach said other than the gym the rest of the building could probably be used for a few more years.
“It’s not going to fall down on anybody, it’s just the gym floor structural thing that is a concern,” Fehrenbach said.
Eveland also agreed with the need of the city to work with the school district.
Clintonville Mayor Lois Bressette said most community residents don’t want the city to stick money into the building, adding that the previous city council advocated for the building to be torn down. She also added that if any renovations are done, making the building handicap-accessible is a must.
Eveland recommended that the city solicit input from city residents before making any final decisions about the building.
Bressette asked how many years the life of the building would be extended if the city did a $2.5 million remodel project. Fehrenbach said 10-20 years.
“We can’t put that kind of money into it,” Hankins said. “It’s not responsible.”
Outgoing Clintonville City Administrator Chuck Kell said the city should inform the Clintonville Food Pantry, which uses the basement of the building, about the situation so it has an opportunity to look for a new location. Kell added that if the boiler in the building breaks, depending on the cost of repairs, it might not be repaired, which would force the Food Pantry to move on short notice.
“I think we need to get them involved now so they can start coming up with alternative plans,” Kell said.
City administrator’s statement
A day after the Facilities Committee meeting, Eveland released an official statement from the city of Clintonville regarding the Rec Center situation:
“There has been a long, on-going discussion regarding what the City should do about the state of the Recreation Center.
“Recently, the City of Clintonville hired Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) to conduct a structural assessment of the building in order to start moving the decision-making process forward. The goal was to obtain an outside expert opinion on whether the structure could be saved and at what cost.
“The Facilities Committee met last night to receive the results of that assessment via a presentation by the SEH consultants, Pat Fehrenbach and Andrew Dane. During the presentation, Mr. Fehrenbach informed the committee that due to structural issues with the underside of the gym floor, he strongly advised against allowing any large gatherings to use the gym.
“Mr. Fehrenbach sent the City a statement today that stated the joists under the gym floor had major longitudinal splits, and he included a couple pictures, one of which I have attached to this media release.
“The consultants clarified that the building is safe for limited occupancy, which means that city staff will continue to occupy the building as well as the other community groups who utilize the space. The Clintonville School District has graciously granted the City access to the 1918 gym in order to continue to provide the summer gymnastics program to allow the City time to look for a long-term solution. Parents of children enrolled in the summer gymnastics program will be receiving calls over the next day or two to provide them with the information regarding the location change.
“Moving forward, the City will be scheduling a community meeting later this month to provide additional, more detailed, information and allow for feedback from concerned citizens. Mr. Fehrenbach will also be attending this meeting to provide a similar presentation as what was given to the Facilities Committee last night.
“The City highly encourages any and all interested residents, business owners, or community groups to attend this meeting. The date and time will be determined later and that information will be put out as early as possible. After the community meeting, the Facilities Committee will meet again to determine the next step forward. The City will keep the community informed to the fullest extent possible.”