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Roof work begins, now Government Center's walls are deteriorating

Contractors preparing to replace the roof on the St. Croix County Government Center got a nasty surprise -- the walls are deteriorating too.

If the problems continue around the building, repair costs could be about $750,000, guessed Facilities Manager Art Tobin.

An engineer who examined the building said the leaking may be due to improper design or to poor workmanship. Finance Committee members directed the county's attorney to begin looking for a law firm to help determine if the county can pursue action against the builder or architect.

As his company began "random water tests" in preparation for roof work on the 15-year-old building, it became apparent that some of the leaks were related not to the roof but to masonry, reported Terry Thone of Roof Spec Inc. of St. Paul.

Roof Spec senior consultant Joel Baresh went over a series of photographs and diagrams with Finance Committee members, showing an analysis of the west facade of the east wing of the Government Center.

The builders used "cavity wall construction," a design with a brick veneer on the outside separated by insulation and air space from the main cinder block wall, said Baresh.

He said moisture is expected to enter between the walls, be directed by sheet metal or plastic flashing to the outside and drain out through weep vents along the bottom of the wall.

The contractors cut out portions of the exterior wall at several locations where there appeared to be problems, said Baresh.

He said findings included flashing that doesn't reach to the outside of the brick, thus allowing moisture into the wall, and cracks caused by water freezing in stone.

Roof Spec recommends removing a few courses of brick, installing new metal flashing where the wall meets the roof, installing new rope weeps along the bottom of walls and doing similar repairs around windows.

The company suggests incorporating about $240,000 worth of wall work into the roof repair schedule to save on mobilization and scaffolding costs and to assure that the new roof isn't damaged by wall work.

The wall analysis was limited to the west exterior fa?ade on the east wing and the south exterior fa?ade on the north wing.

Roof Spec engineers warned that similar conditions could be present on other sides of the building that aren't yet seeing moisture infiltration problems.

Supervisor Buck Malick suggested the work proceed on two tracks: Do the repairs needed before the roof is replaced and analyze the rest of the building.

Tobin said at this point mold isn't a problem in the building.

He asked for more time to go over the Roof Spec study. He told supervisors Thursday that he'd just gotten the report the previous day.

Corporation Counsel Greg Timmerman said several factors need to be looked at to determine if, and against whom, the county may have legal recourse.

"The critical thing here is when did we first know we had issues?" he said.