2018-07-19 / Views

Why the need for a million-dollar roof?

We bought it, but we’re not buying it.

County commissioners last week heard yet another dismal report about the condition of Leelanau’s government complex in Suttons Bay Township, which opened in 2005 with completion of the Law Enforcement Center (LEC).

While we’ve already bought the building, we’re not buying the explanation of why the roof has already gone bad. The public deserves more information than what’s been given.

Commissioners at the time of LEC construction embraced a “design-build” concept in which one firm was hired to ride herd over the project from drawing board to completion. That company was DeVere Construction, which was also hired to design and build the county government building.

We’re told that the latest problem with the LEC, which cost $5.1 million to build, can’t be put off any longer. The structure needs a new roof, a building professional told the commissioners last week. He said that the “ballast” style roof that uses small stones placed over roofing material does not hold up as well as more conventional material.

A new roof with an expected 40-year life could cost $1 million or so.

Recall that the county paid $1 million last year to fix defects in the design of the heating, cooling and ventilation system that required deputies to wear winter jackets in their offices.

Of course, the building is long out of warranty. Adding insult to injury, a consultant hired by the county states that congestion on the LEC roof in the form of heaters and air conditioners will add to the workload.

The complicated roof layout resulted from the fix needed to correct the original, poor design.

The adjacent county government center building, constructed three years later, has a conventional roof that county building grounds head Gerald Culman III said has decades of life remaining. Recall that the government center, too, had problems as ice dams formed on the roof because insulation was improperly installed.

Commissioners discussed the LEC roofing question at their last two meetings. We were left with more questions than answers.

And answers are needed before the county should move from shock to spending mode. Commissioners should demand to know:

 Who recommended the ballast roof, and why?

 Most roofs come with a warranty. Why didn’t this one?

 Are there more affordable options than full replacement?

We opined years ago that the LEC was oversized, which turned out to be true. Its cells are rarely, if ever, more than half full. Perhaps that’s what happens when the company that designs a structure also gets to build it.

At the time we were somewhat consoled with the thought that the building would last a lifetime, and that no major maintenance expenses would be required for the foreseeable future.

That thought was shortsighted.

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