BAY CITY –10/19/2011 – Plastic sheeting hangs in the entryways of offices and in hallways at Bay City Hall. Paper covers the marble flooring on the buildings ground level, and missing ceiling exposes duct work and wiring it concealed.
A year after the historic structure at 301 Washington Ave. was damaged, first by fire and then by water, work only now is turning from cleanup to the task of restoration and renovation. City Clerk Dana Muscott doesn’t expect offices to reopen in the building until sometime next year. But the building is buzzing with the activity of contractors working inside.
On Thursday, crews from Goyette Mechanical of Flint were preparing to remove the buildings old boilers and cooling system to prepare City Hall for a new, energy efficient system. “Next week, we’ll start getting everything out,” said Bob Eremia, a plumber with Goyette. “We’ll probably try to break it down to (take out) 1,000 pounds or less at a time.”
On Monday, crews were to begin removing drop ceilings throughout the building, said Dave Cypher, project manager for City Hall restoration with Zilwaukee-based SERVPRO. Demolition of all old ductwork, mechanical controls and electrical wiring will be done at the same time. Once the new heating and cooling system is in place, crews will install new ceilings and drywall.
It’s work that wasn’t even on the drawing board on Oct. 12, 2010, the day the building caught fire from sparks from a grinder being used on the building’s re-roofing project.
The subsequent blaze was quickly contained, but came at a cost: Roughly 20,000 of gallons of water sprayed from the building’s fire-suppression sprinklers and damaged walls, carpeting and furniture inside. Officials initially expected to be back in City Hall within six months. That was delayed to September once the scope of work was realized, and changed again after the City Commission spent time debating whether or not to replace the building’s aging heating and cooling system.
Those involved in the project say work will start moving along at a faster pace from this point forward. The Commission last month approved a list of upgrades at City Hall that are above what insurance will cover. The city’s insurer, Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, will pay to restore the building to its pre-fire condition and the city will have to foot the bill for anything beyond that.
As part of the upgrades, the Commission agreed to remove drop ceilings to showcase the building’s original architecture, to replace the public seating in the commission chambers and to re-wire the chamber and a conference room for better sound and to webcast meetings. The city has approved selling up to $3 million in bonds to finance the work, but the exact cost has not been determined. Some items will be upgraded with grants and donations. City Planning and Construction Services Manager Jim Bedell secured additional funding for items like historically accurate lighting in public areas.
Bedell has received several grants, such as a $75,000 Michigan Energy Grant for new lighting and has set up an endowment fund the Bay City-City Hall Restoration Fund with the Bay Area Community Foundation.
Bedell is seeking $250 donations to help replace public seats in the commission chambers. Although the expense was approved as part of the bond funding, city officials hope to offset the costs with donations.