Town may fix sagging rafters

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The town has hired an engineer to find a solution to structural concerns with the Old Yellow Schoolhouse Building on Main Street, which is owned by the town and leased by Harbor House Community Service Agency.

Town Manager Don Lagrange said this week that Pete Carroll of Maine Coast Engineering has inspected the building and is to recommend a way to correct structural weaknesses in the roof.

Harbor House leases the century-old structure for $1 a year. The structural issue surfaced in February after the town’s insurance carrier, concerned about a sag in the roof found during an inspection, raised the deductible on the building from $1,000 to $10,000. That action prompted town officials to look into the problem.

Contractor Eric Henry was the first to inspect the structure. He concluded the sag in the easterly slope of the roof is a “longstanding condition” that does not, at this time, present a problem. The insurance carrier, Maine Municipal Association Risk Management Services, responded by saying they wanted a report from a certified engineer.

At a July 12 selectmen’s meeting, Lagrange presented the board with a report by the Southwest Harbor civil engineering firm G.F. Johnston and Associates, contracted by the Harbor House.

According to Greg Johnston, who prepared the report, the problem is that the collar ties that help keep the roof rafters from spreading apart were installed equidistant between the bottom of the rafters and the peak instead of at one-third the distance from the bottom. As a result, Johnston reported, the “roof rafters are 68-percent overstressed.”

“Based on our observation, we have concluded the overstressing of the members in the roof has resulted in sagging of the rafters and an outward thrust movement at the top plate of the wall,” Johnston wrote. “The movement of the top plate has displayed itself in the gaps at the fascia and out-of-plumb wall in the exercise space.”

Johnston said the movement in the roof system would continue until improvements are made. There are several methods of pulling in the wall to remedy the problem, he added.

Selectmen Dan Norwood, who is a contractor, said he believes the roof system “can be shored up at a reasonable cost.” He suggested a structural engineer should be called in to study the problem, which led to a discussion of who is responsible for the repairs.

According to the lease, Harbor House is to maintain the building and grounds. Lagrange and Norwood both felt that the town should pay for the engineering study and repairs.

“They accepted a lease on a building that probably was structurally inadequate to begin with,” Norwood said. “I feel it’s the town’s responsibility.”

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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