New courthouse roof leaks prompt meeting with contractor

Dave Marner
Commissioners receive assurance repairs will be made; completion set for Nov. 30

County commissioners on Thursday expressed frustration with their courthouse roofing contractor and demanded assurances repairs would be made in a timely manner to improve conditions for workers.

The 11 a.m. meeting was held in the basement in the recently renovated emergency management agency office since the commission’s office space is being used by the Assessor’s staff. Offices on the entire second floor of the historic courthouse are currently vacant due to water leaks and employee concerns about poor air quality.

“Obviously, there are, around a lot of the four corners, those are difficult to waterproof as they are,” said Lucac Haines, owner and president of Roofmasters, the contractor replacing the roof. “The majority of the roof there’s not any problems. There’s definitely some problems in the corners. We’ve worked to address those. It hasn’t been perfect.”

Larry Miskel, the county’s presiding commissioner, suggested the county was dealing with either an “inferior material or inferior application” of the protective membrane put down after shingles were removed.

“The first significant rain we had we had more leaks in this building than we had prior to the membrane being put on,” said Miskel.

Miskel noted that since the roof was removed, additional leaks have been located in areas where there were none previously and there has been a notable increase in respiratory issues among employees. The county has been forced to close down, and relocate offices, on the second floor.

“Yesterday, you had guy chasing leaks with caulk guns,” said Miskel, calmly, about the Oct. 4 rainfall which resulted in new leaks. “Well shit, we’ve been doing that for six years and it sure as hell hasn’t cost us 600-thousand dollars.”

Miskel was just getting started.

“I’ve been keeping my mouth fairly closed and sitting back, watching in the background, but I’m not happy,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency. There doesn’t seem to be any quality assurance.”

Miskel wasn’t finished.

“The employees and elected officials are getting pissed off and chewing on our butts and I don’t blame them,” Miskel continued. “I can’t blame them. They’re right. Their work environment is crap. We didn’t have this before we popped the first shingle. We had a leaky roof.”

Miskel noted the county has had inspectors in from the state and county and paid for a mold inspector to give them a report.

“We’ve got new leaks showing up,” Miskel continued. “And the laborer walks in and goes, ‘yup, that’s where we ran out of gutter material. Right there.’ Brand new leak. So there’s more damage to the building. So I’m not in favor of the county tax-papers picking up, paying for that damage. It’s new. Places that have leaked have never leaked before. I’m at my wit’s end with this. Something needs to be done and now you’re saying, ‘well…just keep patching it, keep patching, it, keep patching it.’ And then when the metal’s put on we have a guarantee it won’t leak. Well, we had that (guarantee with the membrane) before. And that’s where I’m at. I am not  happy. I don’t think we’re getting our money’s worth. I just don’t. I don’t know what the answer is but what’s happening right now ain’t working.”

New leaks detected following mid-week rainstorms last week brought commissioners and several elected officials and staff to the table with contractors and the inspector for the roofing system.

“When Joe Brazel said yesterday (Wednesday) ‘get a tarp,’ that’s when I had had it up to here,” said County Clerk Lesa Lietzow gesturing above her head. “That’s what his instructions were. ‘You tarp it.’ He said that, literally. Tarp it.”

“We’re not happy with the process,” noted Miskel.

The water proofing membrane, the inspector said, is a good product when installed correctly.

“It was not been put down correctly,” said Mark Schaefer, the inspector for TREMCO, the manufacturer of the roofing membrane system.

Lietzow shared photographs which showed ridges — described previously as “mole runs” — which are believed to have caused the extensive water infiltration following rainfall in Hermann earlier last week.

Schaefer said “backwater laps” on the roof had been  marked for correction. Some were done but not all, he noted.

“The ice and water barrier is not right, Schaefer said. “Period. That’s it. It needs to be replaced. My job here, is to do part-time inspections, just for the materials going down. What TREMCO calls JSI — job site inspections.”

But, he noted, his authority was limited.

“I don’t have any direction, I don’t have any authority to tell somebody ‘no you do it this way no you do it this way.’ That is not in the scope or my wheelhouse. But when something’s wrong, I bring it up. The ice and water barrier is wrong.”

He noted he was not able, at this time, to provided any more inspection services that those he was contracted to do. Those hours are limited and he added his current personal-life situation did not allow for additional travel and work.

He mentioned he did not appreciate being “raked over the coals” for the way the project has gone.

“However the situation needs to be addressed,” he said. “I think we need to come to an agreement about what is gong to be done, how it’s going to be done, and kind of what the oversight is going to be on it.”

Mary Weston, the county’s prosecutor who has moved her office and staff to her private practice’s office in town, viewed the photographs in disbelief.

“The photographs are incredible in that from the fact the workmanship is so horrible,” said Weston. “I couldn’t believe it would have been laid down like that. I’ve never seen these photos before.”

Lietzow noted they have a file of photographs taken on a weekly basis which are submitted with the construction reports.

Haines said he was willing to make all the necessary repairs.

“We can fix those, If that’s what it’s going to take,” Haines said. “I’m totally fine with that.”

The group discussed how those repairs would be made. Haines suggest patches would be made over problem areas.

What kind of patches? asked Schaefer.

Haines said they could cut out bad spots and patch. “Peel and remove,” if needed, he said.

Haines expressed concerns about the scheduled completion dates which the group acknowledged right off the bat was not on schedule.

“This is what I’m saying? If it needs to be repaired, I will do it. Do you want me to say I won’t do it? I’m gonna say, we’ll pull it off. We’ll put it down. Is that acceptable? I’m not trying to argue with anybody. I’m just saying, is that acceptable? Okay, that’s acceptable.”

“We want it fixed and we want it not to leak,” Miskel. “And, the emphasis is on not leaking.”

“This is a difficult job. It’s gonna take some time,” said Haines. “Everybody’s worried about the schedule.”

“That’s not our concern,” said Weston about the construction schedule. “We just want a dry building.”

She said staff and elected officials were willing to put in their own “blood, sweat and tears” to help paint and make plaster repairs to damaged interior public spaces and office areas once the roof project is complete.

Commissioners agreed with an assessment by the contractor that there was a need to install some attic vents and fans to ventilate the upstairs once the new roof is installed. A cost estimate of $4,016 was given to install four vents and hoods. Electrical wiring for fans will be an additional cost.

Commissioners also agreed that duct work in the assessor’s office and Weston’s office should be inspected and cleaned before staff is allowed to return.

“We are definitely not on schedule.”

Contractors on the project also revised their construction schedules. 

Work on installing metal panels on the small corner domes is now expected to begin Oct. 19 and is expected to take at least two weeks and maybe longer.

“They’re curved. They’re round. I just don’t know,” said Haines. “It may take two weeks. I just don’t know. The curves aren’t perfect. There’s no book that says ‘do this, do that.’”

He said they may need to redo the roof turrets.

“They’re just real rusty,” he said. “We could sandblast and paint but I don’t know how long they’ll last.”

Work on the main center dome will begin Oct. 19 with the arrival of the metal former. Work was originally slated to begin on that dome Oct. 15.

Littrel said they will begin with the center dome so painting contractor Mark Schmidt can finish his work and get the scaffolding down as soon as possible. He is scheduled to begin painting on Thursday, Oct. 12. Once he’s finished, Littrel said they can begin installing the new 24-gauge standing seam metal roof. Schmidt said he’s shooting for completion of his part of the project by Oct. 31 — Nov. 3 for sure.

Littrel said they should have the smaller domes completed by Nov. 17. Work on the flat portion of the roof will begin as soon as the scaffolding is removed.

Schmidt noted he corrected problems with deteriorate window sills on the large dome which were pitched back toward the interior of the structure. 

“Water was just running back in,” said Schmidt. Littrel said all exterior gutters are being rebuilt to correct poor drainage conditions around the building.