Yellow caution tape, orange cones and a detour sign warn visitors away from the front porch of Statesboro City Hall as employees of a building contractor remove and replace decayed boards and beams under the porch roof.
From East Main Street, the detour entrance is around on the building’s right-hand side.
That porch roof is also the floor of the second-story balcony in the municipal headquarters’ alter ego as the historic Jaeckel Hotel. Rain had been leaking through to the porch. At first, the city hired American Roofing on a bid of about $5,000 to replace the roofing material, but that had to be put on hold when rotten wood was exposed, explained City Manager Randy Wetmore.
“Once the guys got up here and started taking off some of the roofing and we saw the lumber and beams and everything underneath, we thought we’d better take a little closer look at that, and there’s quite a few beams that are really bad and are going to have to be replaced,” he said.
So the city is paying another company, Woodcock Builders, for labor and materials in the structural carpentry phase of the work. The total cost has yet to be determined, Wetmore said.
City officials hope that any damage to the columns, or pillars, that support the balcony is limited. Otherwise, these could add a whole new dimension to repair costs. There are more than 20 of the small columns. Mayor Jan Moore said she is afraid these could be “phenomenally expensive” to replace but that the city wants to maintain the historic character of the building.
“We’re going to take care of the roof and then we’ll be taking a look at those pillars too to make sure that they’re solid as well, just trying to make it safe,” Wetmore said. “Then, hopefully, once we get it done this will last another, maybe 25 or 30 years. Hopefully, it will last longer.”
The previous roof, which is a rolled asphalt material over plywood, was apparently installed about 20 years ago, but he doesn’t know when exactly, he said.
During the July 18 City Council meeting, after Moore announced the unexpected turn in the porch roof repair, Wetmore noted that groups of people have sometimes stood on the balcony, especially during the downtown Christmas celebration. That may need to be reconsidered, or a limit placed on the number of people even after the repairs are completed, he said.
“I think we’ll play that by ear, but we want to make sure that everybody’s safe and we want to make sure that the roof is safe,” Wetmore said Wednesday. “Once we get to the end of this maybe we’ll figure that out.”
The porch repair follows maintenance inside the City Hall lobby, including repainting the walls in lighter tones and replacement of the floorcoverings. Some subfloor also had to be replaced after removal of the lobby carpet and restroom tile also revealed problems with the wood underneath, Moore said.
Begun last fall, this work has been completed. The flooring work cost about $16,000 and the painting between $5,000 and $6,000, Wetmore said, so each contract fell below the $20,000 limit on spending items that can be ordered by the city manager without a council vote. Moore and Wetmore did inform the council of the work.
To complete the lobby facelift, Moore has talked with Bulloch County Historical Society leaders about creating displays of local history, including artifacts, photos and possibly an interactive element such as video.
“I’m very excited that the Bulloch County Historical Society has agreed to take this project on,” she said last week. “I don’t know what it will entail the city to do. I imagine we’re going to have to replace some lighting with something that’s more consistent with museum-quality lighting over exhibits, and we’re going to recover some furniture that we already have.”
Hundreds of people visit the City Hall lobby every week, Moore observed.
“It’s an opportunity to share with them some history and they can bring their children through there,” she said. “It’s the people’s lobby, to me. It’s the people’s building, and so I think it would be a great use of that lobby space.”
Council TV screens
Another recent City Hall project was evident when the council met July 18. Replacing a projection screen, the council chamber now has two 65-inch flat-screen televisions, capable of being pivoted, facing the audience from each of the room, plus two 40-inch televisions of the same type hidden behind the wings of the dais, where they are visible to the mayor and council members.
Projected on the four screens simultaneously, exhibits such as those for the Police Department’s annual report were shown on these during last week’s meeting. Moore had previously suggested such a setup but said the city did not have money for a system like that in the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners chambers.
The city had an electrician come in to wire the power. But two employees in the information technology division of the city Central Services Department, Marty McClain and Salomon Gonzalez, did the component installation and connection work, said Central Services Director Darren Prather.
So the total cost came to about $4,400, including the four TVs, the mounting brackets and other hardware and the electrician’s services, he said.
Council members thanked the city employees for this approach as reducing the cost compared to that of a turnkey project.
“If you hired a professional service that would bring their expertise, I would imagine it would easily be $8,000 to $10,000,” Prather said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.