LIMA — The city is spending $1 million on structural repairs more than 10 years after it spent more than $2 million to renovate two historic buildings, and City Council wants to make sure the project is on track.
Council’s Utilities Committee met Monday at the Cambridge Building to hear an update on the repair construction there and the Utilities Department customer service building, formerly the Lima Train Depot.
“We’re putting money into these buildings to make them last. Are they going to last?” committee Chairman and 2nd Ward Councilman Sam McLean asked. “I want to make sure this is something that will be of value to the city.”
Later, McLean emphasized his point.
“As a council, our fear is what happened before. We want to be able to use these buildings,” McLean said. “They have character, but the useful life is our concern. Will the project stabilize these buildings?”
Representatives from Tuttle Construction, the lone contractor on site, and URS Corp., the independent engineering firm hired to inspect the project, said the work would result in sound buildings.
In 2001, the city decided to save the former Train Depot, built in 1887, and the Cambridge Hotel, built in 1882. It partnered with Downtown Lima Inc., which originally bought the buildings and accessed $800,000 in Ohio historical tax credits with the understanding the city would purchase the buildings from them six years later. The city did that in 2009, financing the $2.2 million purchase.
Even then, the problems were evident, including issues with drainage, mold, internal supports and the heating system. LJB Inc. did the original engineering work and neither the city nor LJB had an inspector on site during that renovation. The city has since paid LJB more than $100,000 for additional engineering and paid $15,000 to URS for an independent review of the work.
Council authorized the repair funding in 2012 and Tuttle began the work Jan. 31. The firm plans to be finished by the end of May. Tuttle is largely finished with work that stabilized the structures and foundations. The largest piece of work remaining is to waterproof the structures, which Tuttle won’t do until weather allows.
Tuttle officials said as they find things not originally on the repair list, they inform URS, and make the fixes, but that nothing has been a large surprise or significantly added to the original funding authorization.
Assistant Utilities Director Mike Caprella also assured council the work is being done correctly this time.
“We have a top-notch contractor and engineering firm and expert inspector,” Caprella said. “Good people are doing this work and as things are coming up, they’re getting addressed.”
Third Ward Councilman Jesse Lowe II said he was skeptical because of the history of the buildings, and because of how contractors are doing the work now. For example, Lowe questioned why crews would do first floor plaster and cosmetic work before the second floor was done at the Cambridge Building or before water tightness work was complete.
Tuttle hadn’t planned on doing much with the second floor until some plaster there fell from the ceiling. Now the city is looking how to accommodate the second floor repairs and work that goes on there. The city’s servers and IT department are there; it is the digital nerve center for 13 remote locations, email and phone systems.
Lowe made clear the residents in his ward don’t support the project, and he wouldn’t be supportive of additional funding requests.
“I wouldn’t paint my home knowing my roof is messed up,” Lowe said. “I do not support any more money into this building. It looks pretty, but then what? Not one individual in my ward has agreed with this move. We’re looking at $1 million? What didn’t they see the first time?”
Fourth Ward Councilman Tom Tebben said he didn’t want the contractor, engineers or administration thinking they shouldn’t bring additional funding requests to council for consideration if they believe something is needed.