The Scotland County government building on West Covington Street has character. The people working there say it also has something else — a leaky roof.
“It has been a problem since we moved in and it has just been getting progressively worse,” said Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson.
In the budget passed this week, the Scotland County Board of Commissioners included funding for a $295,000 financing arrangement to pay for repairs to that roof as well as the roof at Sycamore Lane School.
According to Patterson, the county building’s roof includes components made of plastic foam, an apparently obsolete material used in roof construction in 1975 when the structure was built.
“It is past the point of being simply patched or repaired, and it needs to be replaced,” said Patterson.
The faulty roof was most recently inspected by a contractor 18 months ago who determined that it would cost approximately $125,000 to replace. That total did not include the repair work that would be necessary once the roof was removed.
The new estimate is expected to come in around $165,000, including all repairs that would need to be made subsequent to roof removal.
The school roof repair will cost a total of $180,000, $130,000 of which will be paid for by the financing arrangement. The rest of the funds will come directly from the school system.
Over the course of the three-year loan, the county will pay approximately $15,000 in financing fees.
According to school system Superintendent Rick Stout, the Sycamore Lane roof repair was “priority one” for the school system.
“It was put off last year, but now it has to be done,” said Stout during the school system’s recent budget presentation to the board of commissioners.
The Sycamore Lane project is already underway, and is expected to be completed later this week.
Repairs to the West Covington Street facility’s roof are slated to begin before the end of the year.
County Clerk Ann Kurtzman describes the leak as a constant worry for employees during rain storms.
“When we have a hard rain, we have to move trash cans from down the hall,” said Kurtzman.
Kurtzman also noted a bizarre effect that the leaking has had “inside the walls.”
“Around the IT area, the wall puffed out like there was somebody buried beneath the wall,” said Kurtzman. The county’s public buildings service repaired what Kurtzman called “a tumor on the wall … but that doesn’t mean that it was fixed.”
“They were just patching over it,” said Kurtzman.
While patching over the damage can help cosmetically, Patterson fears that allowing the roof to remain as it is “not only damages the building, but also shortens its life.”
Also at risk are “irreplaceable records and very expensive computers,” said Patterson.
The leaky roof has a damaging effect on employee morale, as well.
“Every year we are asking our employees to more and more work, and year after year they watch the water damage grow,” said Patterson. “That’s not a metaphor we would like to see continue.”
There is evidence of mold and mildew damage on a number of areas on the interior ceiling, but none of that mold is considered an environmental risk.
“Every several years we bring in an industrial hygienist from the state, and none of the mold has been deemed harmful to humans,” said Patterson.
The repair, when it does occur, will be a load off the minds of the building’s staff, said Kurtzman.
“This is an old building. We don’t have some of the new shiny facilities, so it’s nice to know that rain wouldn’t be an issue, and that it has been fixed.”
Kurtzman also noted the irony of continuing to have a leaky roof alongside new, greener climate control and lighting systems, which are scheduled to be installed in the near future.
“That will all seem counterproductive if we get that and still have a leaky roof,” said Kurtzman.
The upcoming project for the West Covington Street facility along with several other government buildings will be a move to greener HVAC and lighting systems.
Currently in its planning stages, the project will see more efficient lighting and climate control systems installed at the governmental building as well as the court house, the Department of Social Services and the Scotland County Annex.
That project is expected to begin during fiscal year 2013-14 and to save the county more than one million dollars over 15 years.
“The savings will pay for the financing,” said Patterson. “And if the energy savings don’t offset the costs, the contractor will make up the difference.”
Johnson Controls, one of 15 state approved contractors available to perform the work that is being planned, has engaged with the county in an “Energy Savings Performance Contract” which will guarantee energy savings to the county.