Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Falling bricks, tiles prompt action on Town Hall renovation

By: Jason Rowe, Journal Inquirer
February 21, 2006

VERNON - Falling bricks and roofing tiles have prompted town officials to move ahead with plans to shore up the exterior of the aging Town Hall.

The Town Council is expected to vote tonight on a resolution authorizing Mayor Ellen L. Marmer to apply to the state's Local Capital Improvement Program for $222,000 to repair the grout that binds the historic building's exterior bricks and stone.

The grout has deteriorated to the point that it needs restoration or "repointing," Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer wrote in a memo to Marmer and Town Council members last week.

As a result of the deterioration, rainwater enters the building, damaging windows on the second and third floors.

Shaffer said the water problems have become more acute during the past six months.

But perhaps the most serious problem is that bricks have begun to fall from the upper levels of the 19th-century building, Shaffer said.

In 2000, the south and east sides of the building were repointed when workers completed the installation of new windows on the third floor.

"The pointing project was undertaken in every area that the building was accessible by the existing scaffolding," Shaffer wrote. "This was done in order to take advantage of the cost savings associated with not having to re-scaffold the building for pointing."

In addition, some of the slate from the building's roof has begun to come loose and fall off.

Shaffer said today that the grant request would also cover the cost of roof repairs.

"It's a serious problem," Shaffer said. "We really can't wait any longer. It's become more evidence that we have to address this issue."

Most of the incidents involving fallen bricks have occurred in the building's rear, which is fenced in. But Shaffer said the falling bricks could become a safety hazard if the deterioration spreads to other parts of the structure.

The state has already set aside the money for the repairs in connection with the town's larger effort to restore the building, which was constructed in 1889 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among the projects on the Town Hall wish list is renovation of the third floor, which has sat empty since the executive offices were moved to the second floor nearly five years ago.

Last spring, the General Assembly approved a $1.2 million earmark for the third-floor project as part of a $2.9 billion state bonding package.

But town officials are still waiting for the state Bond Commission, headed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, to approve the funds.

Given the present state of the building's exterior, Shaffer said, the town can no longer wait to make the repairs.

Last month, the town received a cost estimate for the repairs from Sherwood Roofing & Renovating Co. of New Britain, which did repairs to the building during the 2000 window replacement.

In a letter to Shaffer, Jack Zettergren, a company official, said it would cost $175,000 to repoint the entire building, where necessary. That cost includes replacement bricks, where needed, and patching the brownstone sections of the building's exterior.

The Town Hall's coping stone and gables will also be reset and caulked as part of the project, Zettergren wrote.

The cost of replacing the slate roof tiles would be $12,000, he said.

The town is also expected to spend about $30,000 to hire an architect to ensure that the grout used doesn't damage the brick or red stone, Shaffer said.

Plans to renovate Town Hall have gone through many stops and starts during the past several years as officials searched for ways to cover the increasing costs of rehabilitating the building.

©Journal Inquirer 2006