With two engineering reports calling for immediate demolition of portions of the Recreation Building downtown, the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency voted 6 to 3 Wednesday, Sept. 11, to declare an emergency, enabling staff to enter into contracts for the work.

The westernmost building making up the Recreation building, which is actually three building tied together, was posted as a “dangerous building” Aug. 30 due to the partial collapse of the roof at the west end and partial separation of the front wall from the structure.

Three demolition bids have been secured, based on the need to remove the partially collapsed roof and the East 2nd Street exterior wall, and the work is anticipated to take two to three weeks, said Steve Harris, the city’s community development director.

The agency, which owns the building,  also heard testimony from Chuck Gomez, co-owner of the Granda Theater, which is located immediately to the east of the Recreation building. Gomez said the closure of the sidewalk was having a serious negative impact on his business, and closure of the alley would be problematic, with a performance scheduled at the venue this weekend. He said the agency should consider removing some of the east-end barricades, because the damaged building was two buildings west of the theater. “There are two safe buildings between the Granada and the dangerous building,” Gomez said.

Harris told the agency that the entire exterior wall facing Second Street, which fronts all three buildings making up the Recreation building, was of concern. “We feel the entire wall is a hazard, which is why the entire sidewalk is closed. Public safety has to be our first concern,” he said. He added, however, that they would see if barriers could be adjusted to allow access to the theater in the alley and along Second Street.

During demolition, East Second Street may need to be closed, and traffic re-routed around the area, Harris said.

City Attorney Gene Parker told the agency “the situation needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. The structural engineers are very concerned about the  safety of the building. There is a sense of urgency here that is driving this.”

Asked about the insurance coverage, Parker said the insurance company was investigating the failure of the roof and had made no determination as to coverage. He said they planned to have a forensic engineer on site during the demolition. He said if they do cover the loss, it would only be to the value of the building prior to the collapse, which, given its condition, was low.

Three bids were received for the work. Two were  $59,870 and $69,750. A third bid at nearly twice as much was rejected.

Agency members expressed concern that removing the failing portions might not be enough, as maintaining remaining portions of the building over the winter could be costly. They suggested additional problems could be discovered during the demo process, requiring the full demolition of the building.

According to a report by Darrin O. Eckman, P.E. of Tenneson Engineering Corporation, the roof system has been compromised to the point that it has become dangerous and must be removed in a controlled fashion. “Failure to do so will likely result in sudden and catastrophic collapse of the roof system with that collapse possibly also causing the north and south walls to collapse as well, and also possibly doing damage to adjacent building walls. A sudden and catastrophic collapse could also cause the main floor system of the Rec Building to be damaged and/or collapse as well,” Eckman said in his report.

The Tenneson report, commissioned by building owner Todd Carpenter, was one of two addressing the partial collapse of the building in August.

The second report, by EFI Global, Inc., was prepared at the request of a CIS insurance adjuster, which insured the building for the urban renewal agency.

Both engineering inspection reports emphasized the need to immediately demolish the roof and other portions of the building, including the outer wall facing Second Street, as a matter of public safety.

Although both reports referenced the Aug. 9-10 “rain event,” which may have partially triggered the collapse of the roof Aug. 17, both reports noted structural issues were present prior to Aug. 9.

Kirk Vance, a forensic engineer with EFI Global, Inc., reported that the estimated load experienced during the rain event, even if all drainage off the roof were clogged, was insufficient to cause the failure of a properly designed and maintained roof in otherwise good condition. “The failure is thus attributed to long-term deterioration of truss components due to lack of maintenance,” he reported. He added that the “out-of-plumb” condition of the front facade, the top of which has a 12-to-16-inch gap between the wall and the building, resulted from the beam and truss failure, which pushed the top of the wall outward. Vance added that the “condition of the front facade poses an immediate safety risk to pedestrians and vehicles on 2nd St.” He said shoring installed to support the failed beam and truss is inadequate. “The subject structure should be demolished or properly shored immediately,” he concluded.

Harris told the The Dalles city council Monday the property was purchased by the urban renewal agency in 2010 with the intention of demolishing the building and incorporating the property into a proposed hotel development.

Agency board member John Fredrick questioned the advisability of spending more money on the building. “We knew this was an unusable building. How much money are we going to throw at it,” he said.

The agency authorized staff to expedite demolition of all or part of the building, up to the $2.7 million in the agency’s capital fund.

Voting against the proposal was Steve Kramer, Frederick and Bob Delaney.

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