February 7, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 5

Firehall building structurally OK

The Haines Borough public safety building’s physical structure is in fair to good shape, according to a draft report recently released by PND Engineers, Inc.

The building as a whole, including its electrical and mechanical systems, was rated as “poor” by Anchorage-based architectural firm McCool Carlson Green last fall.

Manager Mark Earnest said the borough decided to conduct an additional study on the public safety building after receiving the McCool Carlson Green report, which surveyed seven borough buildings and concluded the public safety building was in the worst shape.

“What we decided to do was just focus on the structural component first, with the idea being that if it was not structurally sound, there was no sense in putting more money into looking at the mechanical issues or the rest of the analysis,” Earnest said.

A structural remodel of the building, according to PND, would cost $508,000. It would cost another $150,000 to install an elevator for ADA accessibility. McCool Carlson Green architect Jason Gamache estimated an entire, overall remodel would cost about $3.5 million.

PND’s draft report, composed by Chris Gianotti, determined the building has “little to no signs of deterioration, excessive deformation or distress.” It also stated the building’s roofing is performing well, that no active leaks have been identified, and that the roofing will likely hold up for the eight to 12 years remaining in its expected life.

“I wasn’t expecting any one thing, but I was a bit surprised that the building appears to be as structurally sound as the report indicated,” Earnest said.

Structural problems included deteriorating siding, excessive water in the crawl space, improper ventilation in the crawl space, deterioration of the base wall between the bay doors, and concrete stoops at the doors in the apparatus bay not being large enough to meet code requirements.

Earnest said the next step in the process is conducting further studies to determine if the mechanical, electrical and other building components represent “fatal flaws” in the structure. The PND and McCool Carlson Green studies do not contain enough information for the borough to decide whether to renovate, remodel, or reconstruct the public safety building at this time, Earnest said.

“We don’t have enough information right now to make that determination. We want to do another cut of the analysis of the existing structure. Maybe that will turn out that the building can’t be reused for some reason. It may turn out that the building is perfectly sound. It may be that certain parts of that building can be reused,” Earnest said.

Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez said it is his personal opinion that further studies are not required at this time. “My feeling is that the borough could use a new facility,” Jimenez said.

“I’m certainly not in the position that I’m recommending further assessments of the building, but it’s going to take the whole team to review the report and make the decision,” he said.

Jimenez said the report, which PND estimated to cost about $3,000, is useful because it provides solid information and rationale to point to in the event of a decision to completely reconstruct.

“My feeling is when the school was torn down, there was a lot of controversy about whether or not it should have been done. So if we’re going to tear down another building, I’d at least like to have some back-up saying ‘Yes, it should go,’” Jimenez said.

Jimenez said it is not his place to tell the assembly where to spend tax dollars, and that ultimately his job is to make recommendations to the best of his ability and answer any questions the assembly might have on the matter.

Earnest said the assembly and Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee will be given a copy of the report and asked for input, although he said he reserves the right to contract with companies for further analyses without assembly input if the cost is less than $10,000.

The borough recently requested $90,000 from the Alaska Legislature for a programming and concept design study for the building, Jimenez said.