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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The first hint there might be something seriously wrong at the Colfax Department of Public Works building was when the ceiling started to sag.
It’s much worse now.
“Good thing” the bucket of the end loader is there to hold up the ceiling, commented Margaret Burcham, village trustee, at the Colfax Village Board’s March 25 meeting.
Rand Bates, director of public works, said he saw “a small sag initially” but now “the nails are letting go.”
Bates first reported the problem with the ceiling at the DPW building last fall at the end of September, and the Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to advertise for bids to repair the DPW ceiling and to pay for the repair out of the unassigned general fund balance.
At the time, the estimated cost for fixing the ceiling was $8,800, and the work was expected to be completed this winter.
When the DPW building was initially remodeled, sections of the steel ceiling were nailed into the wooden two-by-fours rather than screwed into the wood.
The nails are particularly hard on the ceiling because the building shifts every time the wind blows or a train goes by, Bates had explained at the September meeting.
When Bates first noticed the problem, there was a foot-and-a-half “dip” in the middle of the ceiling.
Local contractors were too busy to get at the work last fall, and after winter had arrived, wanted to wait until the weather had warmed up to do the work.
Bates reported at the March 25 meeting he would be obtaining an estimate from MSA Professional Services out of Rice Lake.
MSA was the engineering firm that designed the project when the former Cenex warehouse was being remodeled for use by the public works department.
Carey Davis, village trustee, asked if the village’s insurance would cover the ceiling.
There were no ice dams on the building or water in the ceiling, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
The next day after the village board meeting, an engineer and an insurance adjuster would be looking at the ceiling, she said.
The village’s insurance policy has an “errors and omissions” clause, and if the ceiling has collapsed because of the prior work done on it, the insurance will not cover the cost of repairs, Niggemann said.
“It is not looking like a covered expense,” she said.
Davis said he assumed the village would have needed state-approved plans to remodel the building.
Bates said he had a set of plans but that he did not see state approval on the plans.
The plans might be a copy, though, and not the original, he said, noting they would need to find the master set of plans.
MSA is going to look back in their records for information, too, Bates said.
Mark Halpin, village trustee, asked if the work had been inspected when the building was remodeled.
Bates said he assumed the work had been inspected and state approved.
Keith Burcham, village trustee, asked about the ceiling in the Colfax Rescue Squad portion of the building, although he noted the two projects had been done separately.
Across the ceiling of the living quarters upstairs, there are screws three inches from the nails, Bates said.
Niggemann said she had “no idea” how much it would cost to fix the ceiling in the DPW building, but she was certain it would be quite expensive.
Gary Stene, village president, said the village board had two options: take the money out of the unassigned general fund balance or borrow the money.
Niggemann was of the opinion the village board should anticipate financing the repair.
The cost matters, but the ceiling must be repaired and must be paid for “either way,” Stene said.
Seeing as the end-loader is now holding up the ceiling, what if the end-loader is needed for something else? Halpin asked.
The DPW crew can plow snow without the end-loader, and if it was an emergency, the village could probably borrow the Woods Run end-loader, Bates said.
Woods Run and the village “help each other out” when an end-loader is needed, he said.
The Colfax Village Board anticipated the possibility of holding a special meeting to accept a bid for fixing the ceiling and to figure out how to pay for the repair.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board approved purchasing a new desktop computer from Joe Cramer Consulting for Colfax Rescue Squad Director Don Knutson at a total cost of $1,021.
Knutson’s computer is having quite a few problems and is probably ready to crash, Niggemann said.
The purchase is budgeted, she said.
The cost for the computer is $826, but the rescue squad laptop computer also must be updated, and the quote included three hours of labor to set up the computer and to update the laptop, Niggemann said.