BAR HARBOR — The concrete and steel beam floor of the 100-year-old fire station is suffering from water infiltration and may have “significant internal deterioration,” according to an engineer’s report.
The extent of the structural deterioration of the floor frame could not be determined by the solely visual inspection performed, M2 Structural Engineering president Matthew Miller reported.
“Without knowing the extent to which hidden elements may have deteriorated, it is difficult to assess the structural capacity of the existing floor framing,” Miller wrote on March 4. “In order to determine the necessity of and appropriate repairs for the structure, a more thorough and in-depth structural evaluation of the first floor is required.”
That evaluation, approved by Town Manager Cornell Knight on March 25, involves drilling exploration holes into the floor “to expose the true condition of the embedded steel.” That work has been completed, Fire Chief Matt Bartlett said, and the information is now being analyzed by the engineers.
There are no immediate concerns about the safety of the floor, and the station is able to function as usual, Bartlett said.
“That floor is fine as far as being able to continue to use it,” Bartlett said.
Questions about the integrity of the fire station floor were first raised last fall during an evaluation of the exterior of the building by Building Envelope Specialists, the firm that is currently renovating the brick exterior of the municipal building on Cottage Street.
The company raised a number of issues concerning water infiltration of the brick exterior, prompting town councilors to put a $400,000 bond issue for fixing the walls on the ballot for town meeting in June. Several town councilors said at the time that they thought an inspection of the floor was in order. M2 performed their preliminary analysis on Feb. 24 of this year.
Last month, following M2’s recommendation, Knight agreed to spend $5,500 on a more intensive structural analysis of the fire station floor. There is no cost estimate for potential repairs at this time. Scott Whittaker of Building Envelope Specialists did say in November that were the floor to need structural reinforcement, it could be repaired without removing the steel girders currently in place.
The first floor of the fire station is used for fire trucks and emergency vehicles. As such, it is subject to water exposure. The slab, though, has shifted over the years, preventing proper drainage and leaving many areas of standing water. As the standing water has infiltrated the floor, it has shifted further, creating more standing water and a cyclical problem, according to the report. The floor sits over a full basement.
Visual observations of the top of the floor noted much surface cracking, while the underside evidenced chipping and flaking of concrete and rusting on the bottom sides of the steel beams, Miller’s report outlined.
“Based on our observations, we feel that significant internal deterioration of the [floor] structure may have occurred,” Miller wrote.