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Aging canopy prompts barricade

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

City officials decided to barricade the perimeter of the Paducah City Hall on Wednesday after hearing a report that the aging roof canopy could pose a danger to anyone walking below.

The concrete canopy is one of the most pressing problems plaguing the 50-year-old building. Two engineering firms - Bacon, Farmer and Workman, and Marcum - and architectural design firm Peck, Flannery, Gream and Warren presented the City Commission with a report Tuesday addressing the building's structural, layout and security needs. 

Despite similar engineering assessments in 1978 and 2010, which showed deterioration of the canopy and roof, no structural improvements were made. In its current state, the canopy will need to be removed or replaced.

Because of the weight of the concrete - 1,500 tons - all four corners of the canopy began to show signs of stress just 14 years after the building opened in 1964. Today, the canopy is sagging 5 to 9 inches at each corner.

"There is visible damage upon closer look at the canopy and vertical cracking," said Baccus Oliver, a professional engineer with Marcum Engineering.

Because of the deflection at its corners, water has begun to pond at the outside edges of the roof, causing further damage.

"There's rust, splitting concrete, peeling paint, spalling - where concrete has fallen loose from the structure. Some (pieces) are the size of a large dinner plate. This is going on at all four corners of the canopy," Oliver said.

Following the firms' recommendations, the city made immediate plans to limit employee and visitor access under the canopy.

The report showed that many of the structural, architectural, mechanical and electrical systems in City Hall have outlived their expected lifespans or are inefficient by today's standards.

During the building's 50-year lifespan, improvements have been made to the HVAC system and elevator, but no major renovations of the roof, plumbing, chiller or boiler systems, or fire alarm system. 

"Fifty years is typically a design life for a public building," said City Manager Jeff Pederson.

On a positive note, Oliver noted that City Hall had more than enough space if the commission chooses to renovate.

"City Hall is big enough," he said. "It is just under 61,000 square feet."

The report indicated the city would need at least 50,000 square feet to adequately house all departments currently located in the building on South Fifth Street.

"It should not be understated how well the city has done to make the building last 50 years," Oliver said. "You have been good stewards of the building." 

The estimated cost for renovations could reach $13 million, not including permits, a contingency fund or the expense of temporary offices during construction. If the commission chooses to renovate, the total project from start to finish would take approximately two years.

The commission took no action Tuesday but asked to see cost estimates for building a new city hall.

"I'd like to see what it would take to build a new one," said Commissioner Sandra Wilson.

Pederson said he was identifying locations for a temporary city hall, as both renovations or rebuilding would likely require the city to evacuate the current building during construction.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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