Livermore Falls Fire Station has significant structural problems

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Selectmen voted Tuesday to allocate $6,500 to have a comprehensive engineering study and a topical survey done on the fire station. The building, built decades ago, has a number of significant structural issues.

The money will come out of the Fire Department budget, and selectmen will address any shortfall in the budget in the spring.

Selectmen tabled three bids on new boilers, ranging from $17,492.61 to $25,624 with various options, until they know if it is worth putting more money into the building or if the installed boiler would need to be moved if they begin repairs.

The rear wall of the concrete block wall is bowing and cracking and the floor is also cracking in that area. The roof and the boiler, which Town Manager Kristal Flagg was told could go anytime, are also leaking.

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Resident Tim Fournier told the board he would check with someone he knows about rental boilers to heat the building in an emergency, if the boiler goes.

After doing a preliminary investigation of the decades-old building, engineer James Thibodeau said in his report that he suspects more detailed engineering evaluations will show it may be more cost effective to replace the entire structure with a new pre-engineered building. Such a building would be designed for current code compliance, be 5 to 10 feet closer to the road, and have truck bays facing toward Park Street.

He recommended a two-phase approach to evaluate economic feasibility for repairs.

Among the concerns raised in his report were the metal trusses of the roof being 6 feet apart, the unknown soil under the building and the roof structure.

According to his initial report, the exterior block wall along the rear of the building, which serves as a primary bearing wall for the truck bay, is constructed of unreinforced concrete masonry block.

The roof structure in the rear truck bay consists of steel deck over widely spaced steel bar joists that bear unto the unreinforced rear block wall, Thibodeau of Associated Design Partners Inc. in Falmouth wrote.

“The wall has numerous cracks and visible bowing displacement,” he said. “Wall step-cracks extend past both rear building corners and reveal the likelihood of differential settlement of the back wall with respect to the sidewalls.”

The ground topography next to the rear wall features a short horizontal plateau before dropping off steeply down to the railroad right of way, the report states.

“This rear embankment appears to be unstable, which is evident by displaced tree growth, numerous sinkholes and obvious surface erosion,” Thibodeau wrote. “Based upon observed conditions, I suspect that the supporting soils beneath the rear foundation are somewhat unstable and have likely been eroding over the years due to progressive soil loss from surface and subsurface erosion.” 

The interior slab also shows evidence of differential settlement and there is a significant crack running parallel with the rear bearing wall, he wrote.

Slab settlement is believed to be a function of subsurface soil erosion and is likely associated with the unstable embankment between the rear wall and railroad right of way, according to the report.

Thibodeau also noted there is evidence of significant corrosion along the top cords of the steel bar joists on the underside of the metal roof deck.

“The amount of corrosion is a significant concern given that the bar joists are already suspect to be undercapacity for current code compliance,” Thibodeau wrote.

Part of his preliminary conclusion is that given the numerous cracks and bowing, along with the unreinforced condition of the rear wall, he strongly suspects that a significant earthquake would be capable of causing catastrophic collapse, or at least significant structural damage.

Furthermore, significant roof snow-load accumulations are also a realistic concern, he stated.

He suggested monitoring roof snow loads along with periodic roof shoveling until a structural analysis is completed and justifiable improvements are implemented.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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