NORWAY – A structural engineer who inspected the Opera House roof failure on Sept. 28, eight days after it occurred, said the structural integrity of the historic downtown landmark “has been seriously compromised” and predicts the building’s eventual collapse if nothing is done.

According to the report dated Oct. 1, four to six roof trusses failed along the middle third of the south (Pennesseewassee Stream-facing) wall, which has bowed at least six inches and may be unstable. The trusses dropped about 18 inches and broke the sprinkler system pipe, setting off the sprinkler system, which sounded the alarm throughout downtown Norway on Sept. 21.

In the report faxed to Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey VanDecker on Monday and released to the Sun Journal late Wednesday afternoon, Joseph Neville, a Poland-based consulting structural engineer, said, “It is quite possible that this building in its present condition is on a path of progressive collapse. As the building stands at the time of this inspection, if nothing is done additional structural failures may occur.”

The midafternoon roof collapse caused water to pour through the ceilings of the three-story 1894 brick building and forced two ground floor businesses to move out.

The Main Street building is considered the heart of the downtown National Historic District and the town symbol.

Despite repeated questions about the public’s safety because of the apparent compromised integrity of the building, including the bowing of exterior walls, town officials continued to insist for days that the building was safe and secure. It was not until the day the structural engineer inspected the building that town officials put up barriers and tape to restrict access near the building.

In his report, which is expected to be discussed at tonight’s selectmen’s meeting, Neville “strongly” recommended that the owner retain the services of a structural engineer to provide services to shore the existing structure and restore the structural integrity of the building.

The reports appears to confirm what tenants claimed several days after the event when they were allegedly told by the building owner Barry Mazzaglia of Bitim Enterprises in Londonderry, N.H., that there was an “Olympic pool” amount of water that had collected on the rubber membrane sunken roof and it caused the damage.

Mazzaglia carries no insurance on the building, according to Fire Chief Michael Mann.

In his report, Neville said that based on inspection observations and calculating the depth and location of water required to overload trusses, it was not possible for a break in a sprinkler pipe located above the third floor ceiling to cause the trusses to fail.

Neville noted that he observed the south wall grade from the adjacent second and third floors of the Odd Fellow Building. Because of “safety concerns,” he said he did not directly inspect the failed trusses.

His inspection revealed that four to six roof trusses failed along the middle third of the south wall, according to the report. The trusses bottom chords appear to have dropped approximately 18 inches.

“Most probably, the trusses had deteriorated at their supports on the south wall. Over time the roof gradually sagged as deterioration increased and thus created a ponding condition where more and more rain water accumulated on the roof,” Neville said. “Finally the trusses failed, dropped and broke the sprinkler pipe located below the ceiling and consequently activated the sprinkler system.”

Neville said as best as he could calculate, the depth of the ponded water on the roof was about eight inches deep.

He also stated that from exterior observations it appears the south wall bowed approximately six inches in several places along the wall of the failed trusses.

The owner, who has steadfastly refused to comment, has been at the site almost daily for the past two weeks bringing in pickup truck loads of lumber to shore up the interior of the building.

Neville has recommended that the shoring continue to the basement and to some form of footing. At the time of his observation, Neville said, “As it stands now, the shoring load is supported by a few second-floor joists which are structurally inadequate to carry the roof loads.”

He stated the entire shoring system should be designed by a structural engineer. And, he said, the failed trusses need to be observed to determine exactly what failed and what kept them from completely collapsing.

The selectmen’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Town Hall on Danforth Street.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.