New library roof in Aspen to be torn up again
The latest attempt to fix the perennially problematic roof of the Pitkin County Library has failed, a county official said Wednesday.
“Basically, they have to pull off half the roof and replace it,” said Jodi Smith, the county’s facilities director. “And (they’ll have to) do some repairs on the other sides.”
Taxpayers have spent more than $800,000 since 2005 on three attempts to fix the roof at the library, but none have worked, Smith said.
The most recent project was a $490,000 complete re-roofing that began in October but came to a screeching halt in December when an independent inspector discovered installation problems. Now, the contractor will spend the next two months ripping off the eastern and southern portions of the new roof and starting again, Smith said.
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And while taxpayers will not be on the hook for the cost of the latest redo, Pitkin County commissioners expressed frustration about the library’s ongoing roof problems.
“I personally am disappointed that this roof thing has been going on so long and it’s not right,” Commissioner Steve Child said. “There’s probably been a lot of wasted money out of that $800,000. It does sound exorbitant to me.
“They should have gotten it right a long time ago.”
Commissioner Patti Clapper said the library’s roof was poorly designed from the get-go.
“It would be great if we could go back to the original design and start over,” she said. “There’s an enormous amount of frustration.”
Pacific Sheet Metal, based in Carbondale, installed the first two parts of the roof in October and November without problems, Smith said. However, work done later in November and in December “did not go so well,” she said.
First, the company ran out of materials in December, which prompted Smith to shut down the project to try to figure out what was happening. That was when the independent inspector employed by the county discovered the installation problems related to the roof membrane, Smith said.
That inspector, Darren Bautista of Pie Engineering in Denver, said Wednesday the problems included glue that didn’t adhere in colder conditions and a lack of training by Pacific Sheet Metal employees on how to install the roof materials.
Smith also said the contractor’s employees did not have the proper expertise.
“(Pacific Sheet Metal) did not have adequately trained workers on that roof,” Smith said. “Now they have the proper training to get it done properly.”
Pacific Sheet Metal owner Lowell Walter on Wednesday denied that a lack of employee training was the reason for the improper installation. Instead, he said that the type of glue that must be used for that particular roof system malfunctioned.
The glue was supposed to be acceptable to use until the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees, Walter said. Crews used the glue when it was about 50 degrees, but it didn’t work, he said.
“That set up everybody to fail,” Walter said. “Maybe it was a bad batch of glue. We just had a snafu.”
The roof was about 80 percent complete in December, Smith said. It is now only about 40 percent complete, she said.
Approximately 11 years ago, the county spent $165,000 to try to fix problems with the roof, but those fixes were not installed correctly and the roof manufacturer later declined to honor the warranty because of the faulty installation, she said. Then, about two years ago, the county spent another $130,000 on regular maintenance to fix the flat portion of the roof, Smith said.
The loss on the first roof fix around 2006 was the reason the county paid Bautista about $43,000 since October to inspect Pacific Sheet Metal’s work to make sure it was being done properly, Smith said.
“The first roof was designed and installed under my watch,” Smith said. “I trusted it was done right. I owned that one.”
This time, Pacific Sheet Metal will pay to fix the problems, including paying Bautista’s fee since Dec. 10, Smith said. The other bit of good news is that the new roof design worked in terms of appropriately shedding snow during the winter months, which wasn’t happening in previous years, Smith said.
“It’s functioning the way it’s supposed to,” she said. “They just need to get it installed properly.”
Work on fixing the roof again could begin as early as next week, Smith said, and last until about June 23. The library will remain open during the repairs.
The approximately $823,000 worth of library roof fixes since 2005 has been paid for out of property tax mill levy that funds the library’s ongoing operations, said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.
“Obviously fixing the roof has been a big challenge for us,” Peacock said. “But we’re confident the contractor will work with us and get it fixed the right way.”
Walter said he’s installed similar roofs in the past without problems, including one at Aspen Valley Hospital. That roof, however, was installed in the summer months when it was warmer, he said.
“We’re talking about a tough project,” Walter said. “Nobody set anybody up to fail. Nobody did a poor job.”
Clapper agreed that the project is complex and said she hopes this will be last time the library’s roof needs attention.
“Hopefully, this will be the end-all, fix-all,” she said.
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