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Brick woes block permit for new jail

Jim Files

An old poem details how, for the lack of a horseshoe nail, a battle, a war, a kingdom was lost.

A country isn’t at stake right now in Glenwood Springs, but a county is.

At least a county jail.

And the problem isn’t a nail, but the color of the bricks.

Although work has been underway since April, the jail project lacks an official city building permit or a needed special-use permit.

At a special meeting Monday afternoon, city and Garfield County officials determined that only two things are clogging the wheels of progress.

The issuance of the building permit is “only waiting on some ADA compliance in a prisoner area restroom,” said city planning director Andrew MacGregor.

Exactly what that compliance problem is, MacGregor didn’t know, saying it had been brought up by Art Hoaglund, the independent inspector hired to eyeball the project.

No county official at the meeting – not the engineer, assistant engineer, county attorney, planner or either of the two commissioners who were there – had ever heard about the compliance problem before. Neither had the jail architect.

Whatever the problem was, it was supposed to be worked out Monday, MacGregor said.

“We’ll get you your building permit,” promised City Manager Mike Copp.

The color of the bricks might be harder to fix.

According to MacGregor, the county’s application for the needed special-use permit promises to match the materials used in the jail to the materials that had been used in construction of the Garfield County Courthouse.

The problem, it seems, is that the tan bricks used in the courthouse are 75 years old, and are decorated with grooves dug into the wet clay as the bricks are made.

The county and its architect, Bob Johnson of Reilly Johnson in Denver, have selected bricks they think match, but could not obtain sample bricks with the decorative grooves for MacGregor to look at. Without the grooves, MacGregor, who has the final word, can’t say that the samples actually do match the old bricks found in the courthouse.

“We’ve been asked by the general contractor to make a decision on the brick by June 30,” Johnson said. That way, the bricks can be ordered for future delivery to fit into the jail construction schedule.

The company making the bricks didn’t want to score just a few samples, Johnson said, but wanted to do the scoring when the order was put together. Getting a scored sample might take months, he said. Besides, bricks are made of natural clays and soil conditions and clay veins can change every five years.

Glenwood Mayor Sam Skramstad offered to take a sample brick home and score it with a masonry saw, if that could get things moving.

Johnson said he would call the brick company and see if perhaps some scored sample bricks could be found to run by MacGregor and allow him to make a determination as to whether they match or not.

Holding an old brick up against the samples Monday afternoon, MacGregor couldn’t say whether the scoring would make them match.


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