Through the Roof: Rec Center Fix Pegged at $1.2 Million

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 10/31/2016 - 02:08
White efflorescence on the upper walls of the Rec Center is indicative of a moisture problem.

In a work meeting held prior to the regular meeting, Saline City Council discussed a vexing problem – repairs to the roof of the Rec Center are needed and the project will be very expensive. Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs gave a history of the problem.

The facility was built in 1991 with a ballasted roof – one in which the roof is covered with a rubber membrane weighted by stones. In a 2006 renovation, workers refurbished the roof over the pool area and added a vapor barrier. A Carlisle SynTek synthetic rubber membrane was also installed over the entire building.

In 2010, Rec Center employees discovered new roof problems. The membrane was coming lose and some decking had deteriorated. More repairs were done.

This past March, strong winds caused the roof to become partly detached from its support. As a temporary fix, workers placed sand bags on the roof to hold it down.

Scruggs hired Mays Consulting & Evaluation Services, Inc. to evaluate the problem and recommend repairs They have had experience with similar buildings and they came highly recommended by former clients.

Gary Mays, Owner of Mays Consulting, came before City Council to discuss his findings. The analysis seemed thorough, but the conclusions were disconcerting. According to Mays, the roof was poorly designed in the first place and the subsequent repairs were also badly flawed.

The roof design had woefully inadequate vapor barriers and only half of the insulation R-value required by code.

“Warm humid air from the inside of the building is going into the roof system and also going into the walls," Mays said. “When you look at the walls you can see where it’s got a lot of efflorescence on the outside of the walls.”

Efflorescence refers to a white crystalline deposit that occurs as water diffuses through walls carrying dissolved salts. This is a minor cosmetic concern, but is indicative of a major internal problem.

The moisture inside the roof system and walls causes corrosion of metal and delamination of other materials. The roof is degrading and could get worse quickly.

“How was something like that missed?” Mayor Brian Marl wanted to know.

“It’s been a design issue from day one,” Mays said. “And then when they put the new roof on, people designing the new roof evidently were not knowledgeable about designing it for a center like this, a recreation type center, because there’s so much moisture inside these.”

Mays estimated that the work and materials needed to completely fix the problems could cost in excess of a million dollars. This would yield a roof with a 30 plus year life expectancy.

The company that made the barrier material will help by providing a discount on new parts, but they will not take responsibility for a problem caused by a bad design. Furthermore, the company that designed the center in 1991 no longer exists.

A temporary fix can be made so the roof will hold through the winter. Bar fasteners would be applied that fasten the roof down to the steel deck.

“We estimate that it’ll be between 15 and 20 thousand dollars for that temporary fix and that’s something that our budget can absorb, no problem,” Scruggs said.

After the presentation, council members asked questions and made comments. Marl was careful to blame neither the Rec Center staff nor the facility itself, but he was upset.

“I have to say that, as it relates to the design and the installation, the level of incompetence that we are talking about is really troubling to me,” Marl said.

Councilman Jack Ceo summed up the feelings of many others when he addressed Mr. Mays.

“I’m sure that the people who sat in the same chairs we’re sitting in, years ago, in the initial design and then when the replacement repair occurred, they sat here and listened to people who told them this is the way to go; we’re your savior; we’re going to lead you to a solid roof. We’re placing a lot of faith in you sir. I just hope sir that our faith is well placed.”

The high cost of the needed repairs led to a deeper concern, expressed by Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads. Councilman Dean Girbach concurred.

“I do want to ask the question about the elephant in the room,” Rhoads said. “Is there enough value to the Rec Center that we’re willing to put $1,200,000 or so into it?”

There was consensus among council members to proceed quickly with the temporary repairs, which could be carried out without any official vote. They further agreed to discuss the matter in detail at the Nov. 14 City Council Meeting and perhaps make a decision at that time.

Bob Conradi's picture
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.