NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Additional work is required to shore up the town’s recreation center, according to a town official, but the project’s cost will not rise and construction time should not be extended.
Larry McLeod, a building inspector for the town, said damage to nine steel columns set to be repaired is worse than originally thought. The columns will now be replaced instead, he said.
The walls and roof above the town’s pool at the 40-year-old recreation center must be replaced because the exhaust system, which carries humid, chlorinated air from the pool area through the walls and out of the building, has corroded structural components. Officials said it could eventually impact the integrity of the building if not repaired.
McLeod said workers began construction earlier this year. They got behind the walls and found that some of the steel support columns were "severely rotted."
"It’s as bad as we feared it was going to be. It was severely rusted, not just on the bottom, but up a good distance. The original plan called for repairs, just get in there and sandblast, prime, pant and weld," he said. "We thought, at the worst, we’d have to repair some columns. Now that we’ve seen them, some aren’t repairable at all."
All nine columns on the western side of the pool will be replaced, and the new steel should be on site next week, according to McLeod.
The contractor originally raised cost estimates when it was determined the columns would be replaced, McLeod said. That was reversed, however, after the town’s engineering firm pointed out that work to repair the old columns will no longer be completed.
"Our engineers said, ‘Wait a minute, let’s took a look at things that will no longer be done,’" he said. "We won’t have to do any of that. There was some concrete work involved in that. It was a lot of work."
The project also calls for replacing roofs on the building. McLeod said a flat room has been completed and workers are now beginning on the pitched roof.
McLeod said the work should still be completed on time and the facility will likely open shortly after Labor Day as town officials had planned.
"The contractor is feeling good about being on track. We’re moving along pretty well," he said. "If we have to go past that a couple of days it’s not a problem."
Voters approved a ballot measure by a 3 to 1 margin in March 2011 to borrow up to $680,000 to repair the facility. Town officials originally thought the cost of repairing three walls around the pool, roofs and installing a new ventilation system to prevent the problem from reoccurring would cost about $672,000, including a 15 percent contingency. The town received a low bid of about $350,000, however.
The town also reached an agreement with Off the Wall, a private fitness club in Bennington, to allow members to use the private facility during construction.