Full extent of problem still unknown four years after construction; will run at least $495,000 more.
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Town commissioners learned Tuesday that their $11.5 million town hall, completed in 2009, still needs another half million dollars of work to fix rain damage.
To put it ungently, the structure is leaky as a sieve.
“The biggest issue is the wall flashing above all the windows was improperly installed,” Deputy Town Manager Roe O’Donnell explained after the meeting Tuesday. “Because of all the other things that are wrong as well, it allows the water to get in.”
The town is still in the middle of a lawsuit against general contractor Heaton Construction for the leaks, which have been known about for some time.
Concurrently to that, the town has been cataloguing issues related to rain leaking in at various places due to sloppy workmanship. Due to the large number of places where the water comes in, where a leak is found one day will be completely different the next time it rains, O’Donnell said.
The issue seems to be particularly prevalent on days where there is a hard driving, almost horizontal, rain, he said.
With the commissioners’ assent Tuesday, the town will pay Exterior Diagnostic Services (EDS) $494,000 to investigate the source of the leaks and to determine the full extent of the damages. EDS was the low bidder; other bids came in at $522,000 and $1.08 million.
EDS was recommended by the town’s project engineer, Wake Forest Engineering Director Eric Keravuori told commissioners.
The company will have to remove two to three courses, or layers, of brick off the building above each window, repair or replace the flashing and water dams on the windows, removing each window temporarily in the process.
“It’s very complicated work,” said O’Donnell.
“Additional expenses may be incurred once leaking areas are exposed,” Mayor Vivian Jones warned.
Added Commissioner Anne Hines, “We may find mold and things like that too.”
No one on the board objected to the motion to approve the contract.
“We don’t have a choice,” said Commissioner Margaret Stinnett. “We have to approve or this building will crumble on top of us.”
The 42,000-square-foot town hall project was Heaton Construction’s second. The Roanoke Rapids-based company also built other governmental structures, including the Spring Hope town hall, a Warren County library and Leroy Martin Middle School, as well as several theaters, community centers and businesses.
Because Heaton is general contractor only, subcontractors were used in every stage of construction, with a different sub for virtually every aspect.
In 2009, Heaton project engineer Joey Elias said they were employing 30 major subcontractors for everything from the steelwork and masonry to concrete, flooring, title, brickwork, hardwoods and carpeting would be needed Wake Forest town hall project. He also estimated there would be a total of 750 to 1,000 total workers.
Charles George, a partner with Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton, the town’s Raleigh-based law firm, said Wednesday that a mediation effort between the town, Heaton and several subcontractors had stalled, which is one reason the town was going forward with the work.
“We did mediate the case eight weeks ago and the parties reached an impasse,” he said.
George said that some of the subcontractors involved wanted to make the repairs themselves, but town officials wanted to make sure the fix solved all the issues.
“[The town’s engineers] had concerns about doing the repair work who had made the mistakes in the first place,” he added.
Now that the town has a bid estimate, the litigation can go forward, George said, noting that possible outcomes could include resuming mediation, going to court, or a pretrial settlement.
Commissioners also approved a series of projects submitted by Wake Forest Senior Planner Candace Davis that will allow the town to get grants for sidewalk and greenway projects all over town.
They include putting sidewalks or multi-use paths on sections of Ligon Mill Road (near Walmart); a path along Harris Road from Joyner Park to the intersection of West Oak; adding a roundabout at that location; adding a sidewalk on the north side of Harris Road at Olde Mill Stream and down West Oak to Abercrombie Road; adding sidewalk on Wait Avenue from Allen Road to the Hillside Nursing center and putting a multi-use path/sidewalk on Durham Road from Tyler Run Drive to the Waffle House.
Another grant project includes acquiring land to complete the Smith Creek/Dunn Creek greenway, connecting the already approved, but not yet built section south of Heritage High with the section connecting to the Raleigh Neuse River Greenway.
And Davis is working on a design to put a sidewalk on Stadium Drive from North Wingate Street to Capital Boulevard.
All these projects would receive supplemental state or county funding, but none of the funding is assured until those entities approve the projects.
One project eligible for county funding may yet be in jeopardy, said Jones, who has attended Wake County open space advisory meetings.
“One of the comments they’ve made is they thought this open space money should be spent more on the county projects than municipal projects,” she said. “I guess they kind of forgot we pay county taxes.”
•Garbage fee upped: Commissioners approved a request by Republic Services to raise the garbage collection rate by 1.5 percent per household. The fee is in line with a hike in the consumer price index, Wake Forest Public Works Director Mike Barton said. Residents will see their rate go from $10.48 per month for garbage and $3.41 per month for recycling to $10.64 and $3.46, respectively.
•Pool project: As part of their consent agenda, commissioners approved spending $650,000 for renovations to Holding Park Pool including $394,000 slated for an upcoming renovation of the bathrooms, as well as other work designed to eliminate interior cracks and leaks.
•Lighting up: They also signed off on spending $2.5 million to design and construct new lighting for North Main Street and to purchase a transformer for the JB Cole substation on Cedar Avenue. The town will issue private bond to pay for the improvements. Main Street residents have long complained about stretches of the sidewalk being dangerously dark at night.
•ABCs of permits: Commissioner Greg Harrington cast the only dissenting vote in a request by town staff to authorize the town to purchase alcohol beverage commission permits. This allows the town to rent facilities for events where alcohol is sold. Said Harrington, “I still feel like the town should not be in the business of buying alcohol permits.”
•Ticketminor: A proposal to create an E-ticketing system for facility rentals was also approved by commissioners. It would include a 3-percent per ticket processing fee to operate the equipment, as well as a 10-cent per ticket charge for tickets printed at the box office.
Wake Forest Communications Director Bill Crabtree said that the vendor, Etix, is the same entity that Cary uses at its Koka Booth amphitheater. Etix is based out of Morrisville.
•Benefits: Wake Forest Human Resources Director Virginia Jones got approval to begin a new voluntary deferred compensation plan for town employees which allows them to begin saving money for retirement after they are hired. The town’s current 401K requires a six-month wait. “This is a wonderful plan,” she said. “It will allow our employees to (immediately) start working toward their future.”
•Lights, camera: A request was approved by Living Word Family Church Pastor Micah Caronna to use town properties in filming for a feature-length movie they intend to complete to coincide with the Christmas season.
Filming will take place in October and November at locations in Joyner Park and town hall. Caronna told commissioners it was a film about a politician who has treaded the wrong path, a “Scrooge meets Mary and Joseph” story.
“I appreciate you making it a man, not a woman,” Mayor Jones, who is up for re-election, remarked in jest.
Added Commissioner (and attorney) Frank Drake, “The question is, is the politician also a lawyer?”