City Hall renovation bigger than expected

Costs may encourage building new City Hall

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Story at a glance

• An architect hired by the city of Craig told officials that insulating the roof for energy efficiency may cause it to collapse.

• City Hall's roof was not designed to support as much weight as the amount of snow that falls in Craig, and without heat escaping from inside to melt the snow, the roof might fail.

• To renovate City Hall and make it energy efficient, contractors would have to double the number of interior support beams, a costly project that would displace many, if not all, city offices.

• Officials plan to consider whether building a new City Hall would be a better investment than renovating the existing building.

City officials received unexpected and unpleasant news at a workshop Tuesday night regarding a possible City Hall renovation.

Officials have said the building needs to be updated, including construction projects to increase energy efficiency and remodel the basement level to make use of a space vacated by the Craig Police Department years ago.

After an architect's presentation, it seemed the city still could address cosmetic issues, such as fresh paint and new carpet, still could do something about leaky walls on the south side of the building and still could remodel the basement.

To make City Hall energy efficient, however, is another matter entirely, as the building's inefficiency may be the reason it still is inhabitable.

Robert Ralston, a Steamboat architect with Robert S. Ralston & Associates, said City Hall loses 70 percent of its energy through the roof, meaning 70 percent of the heat pumped into city offices escapes upward.

The roof is about one-quarter as efficient as it should be by contemporary standards, the architect said, but that inefficiency is exactly what keeps the roof from collapsing during winter.

City Hall is designed to withstand between 20 and 30 pounds per square foot of pressure on the roof. The recommended load bearing for buildings in Craig is 40 pounds per square foot.

City Hall's roof probably would have failed by now, except all the heat going through the ceiling melts enough snow that the weight doesn't pile up, Ralston said. If the city were to insulate the roof for energy efficiency, the snow would no longer melt and the roof could collapse.

It leaves the city with two options for the current building, Ralston said.

The city could hire contractors to double the number of support beams holding up the roof, which likely would force city staff to be removed from the building and be "very costly."

Or the city can leave the roof like it is and "just pay the gas bill," Ralston said.

As officials considered the options, some City Councilors didn't see much point in doing a few small things if larger problems aren't addressed.

"That would be like throwing good money after bad," Councilor Ray Beck said.

There was, though, an alternative.

City staff and members of the Council have remarked in the past the city might need to build a new City Hall relatively soon. The problems with the current building - electrical, insulation, floor plan - might be too many to pour cash into.

Ralston presented city officials with a sketch of how a new building might look, which showed a new City Hall built over part of the existing parking lot.

Before they can begin to make a decision, though, they all need to see cost comparisons, Councilor Bill Johnston said.

"We need some options in front of us," he said. He suggested the city find out the total cost to renovate the existing building, conduct a study on what expansions the city may need in the future to address growth, and find out what a new building would cost to build in the next few years.

"We have to see all this in order to make an informed decision," Johnston said.

The Council voted unanimously at its official meeting later Tuesday night to pay Ralston as much as $10,000 for such information.

City Manager Jim Ferree said that figure was decided on before anyone knew about City Hall's structural problems, so it may increase to more than $10,000 before Ralston is done. Ferree plans to keep the Council updated about when it may need to vote on paying more money and when Ralston has information to report.

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