An engineering firm’s June assessment of the Jasper County Annex building’s exterior foundation details extensive work needed to tackle its persistent water infiltration and carries a price tag of more than $600,000.
Shive-Hattery was tapped in May to assess the building to determine the long-term viability for the Jasper County Supervisors. The findings of the investigation were reported to the board at its June 26 meeting with recommendations including extensive excavation work to the building foundation.
“It is a brick foundation with no evidence of any kind of waterproofing, which is pretty standard for approximately 80 years ago,” Shive-Hattery Civil Engineer Christopher Bauer said. “The water is slowly working its way through the bricks over that 80 years, the mortar and foundation have deteriorated and you are getting more and more infiltration into the basement. Along with it also being used as finished space now which it wasn’t originally designed for … with those things combined that is where it is starting to impact the use of the basement area.”
Bauer said the infiltration is widespread around the entire building, including the window wells, which he said are starting to fall down. The bricks that were used to build the window wells are starting to lean with some bricks beginning to fall out and according to the report, the existing window wells are deteriorating and bowing and need to be reconstructed as they are “unsafe and could collapse.”
Jasper County Maintenance Director Adam Sparks disagreed with the assessment of the condition of the window wells. While he knows there are issues with the foundation, he asserted the area is safe for those who work in it.
“I’ve worked here for 10 years and those window wells have been in the same condition almost the whole 10 years. There’s no risk on those window wells falling in and hurting anybody,” Sparks said. “Those are just things, in my opinion, that are being far-fetched, stretched out to look like worst case scenario and they’re not. I would go sit down in any office in that basement all day long, seven days a week and never feel like there’s a health concern or window wells falling in. It is not that bad.”
The board was given several options to address the issue ranging from replacing the windows to filling in the areas and removing the windows completely. With a hefty cost already associated with the project, about $150,000 could be saved if the window wells were filled in.
“There is a big cost savings … It is obviously going to impact the offices and use of the basement for those occupants,” Bauer said. “That is definitely something to consider before choosing that cost-saving option of filling in the windows.”
Bauer recommends addressing the water infiltration problem throughout the building by “positive side waterproof” the foundation. The process would include an excavation dig around the entire structure with a waterproof coating placed on the outside walls. A drainage system would also be put in place due to a high groundwater table, which is a partial reason for the initial problem. The cost of the work comes in at approximately $300,000, without contingencies.
Bauer explored waterproofing from the inside out, and while it is a less expensive option, Bauer said he spoke with several contractors who said the deteriorating brick walls would be hard to complete.
Another option is placing drainage board material along the interior of the foundation along with vapor barriers, water barriers and then replace the sheetrock that was previously in place to deal with the water infiltration.
“It is not a very good long-term solution,” Bauer said. “Again you are getting water into that wall system. If you are going to invest in the building for long-term because you already have water in the walls systems, you are just bringing on the potential for a lot of risk and problems long term. The longer that water penetrates through the brick, it will continue to degrade that mortar and brick foundation of the building long term. It is better to isolate and stabilize that foundation.”
An additional investigation into the window well intakes including a video inspection and tracing to identify their outlet locations is recommended by Shive-Hattery. Further, a topographic survey is suggested to verify existing accessible ramp and stair elevations and elevations surrounding the building. The survey would identify potential storm sewer connections points for proposed foundation drains and window well drains, according to the engineering firm.
If the county proceeds with recommended for excavation work, the exterior stair tower located on the east side of the building must be removed at an estimated cost of $40,000.
The final piece addressed by Shive-Hattery was the south dock area. An original feature when the structure was a U.S. Post Office, the wood canopy is showing extensive rot and the concrete dock is deteriorating, creating safety hazards for those walking in and out of the back door.
The recommendation is to remove the current dock including the wood, concrete dock and storage building adjacent to the area. A new stoop would replace the aged entrance with a handicap accessible ramp that meets state code.
“There is an existing handicap ramp that goes to the back door. It doesn’t meet the current code requirement, the length is too long, it requires an intermediate landing for a breakpoint for accessibility purposes. We don’t know the ramp slope but it is questionable whether or not that meets it, too,” Bauer said. “As part of the removing the dock, we would go in there and place a new concrete stoop with access to the door, get stairs going down to the parking and a new ramp.”
Bauer said there is an option to repair or replace the wood and patch the concrete for a less expensive price, but once again, taking the cheaper route could lead to the same maintenance issues sooner rather than later. Removing the dock and replacing it with the new stoop and ramp is estimated at $107,0000.
“Long-term is really the picture we have been directed to look at, what makes sense for this building for the county for the next 50 to 100 years,” Bauer said.
With all options on the table, Bauer said the decision is up to the board of supervisors on how to address the annex building. Structurally, he said the tuck pointing, stonework and brick of the building is in fairly good shape. The first and second floors have also had remodels in the past 25 years and are in good condition.
“The outcome of this, what we are looking for — what is the budget number to address these issues?” Baurer asked. “That will have to play into, is that the right location for the county offices that are currently housed there or do we need to start looking at alternate locations long term.”
Joe Brock, chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, proposed during the process exploring the possibly to building a new facility. Supervisor Doug Cupples has voiced opposition to that option, and in an interview Tuesday Brock conceded a new building could be a difficult sell to his board.
“My direction has been to make sure we take a look at everything — price new, used or rebuilt. I don’t think there’s been much support for putting up a new building,” Brock said.
Sparks agreed the building is salvageable and issues on the outside of the building need to be addressed before anything is done in the interior.
“I think the problem is with everybody is where the money is going to be best spent,” Sparks said. “I don’t think anybody thinks that building is such a big dump that it can’t be saved — there’s nothing that wrong with it. It’s just the amount of money they want to put into it, they started looking outside the box.”
Sparks said multiple locations around Newton have been visited as part of evaluating options to try to fill space needs for the county. Beyond a potential mold issue in the building, the supervisors are asking is the annex big enough to adequately meet the needs of the county offices which operate in the space and is it the best building or best option for the county.
To date, the board has been hesitant to make any decisions regarding the building beyond requesting an additional space needs analysis through Shive-Hattery. Approved in August, the analysis will determine functions, by department and service, housed within the building, calculate the approximate area used by each department and service and review the layout of each department and service to determine utilization of space.
According to Brock, he and other county representatives met with engineers this week about the analysis, which is still underway. He said it will be on a supervisors agenda and discussed soon.
“I don’t know what will happen to it. Three different supervisors and I have to get two of them come together. My position on that is I would like to know our cost on all our different options. A new building would be in that,” Brock said. “It would be a good thing to at least know what the square footage would be. We’ve looked at a lot of old buildings, but I don’t know if we’re getting any better than what we’re trying to leave.”
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