HANFORD — Sometimes, things aren’t as bad as they seem.
During the Hanford City Council study session on Tuesday, Council was given an update on the Veterans Memorial Building and Senior Center, and the news was just what the Council was hoping to hear.
In November 2017, Council unanimously decided to close the building after information regarding the building’s roof was brought to light from the city’s public works department. It was later revealed that the building’s bowstring roof trusses were not operating properly and the roof was subject to failure.
This closure sent the organizations who occupied the building, including veterans and seniors, and the events held regularly in the building to find new locations. The seniors and veterans have been sharing the old Goodwill building at 426 W. Lacey Blvd. and various classes have been spread to different buildings around town, like the Longfield Center.
At the time, City Manager Darrel Pyle said he didn’t expect the building to be inhabitable for at least a year.
The city, which leases the building from Kings County, asked a structural engineer to provide a detailed analysis of the roof system and a construction solution with an estimated cost for work.
“We have some good news to report on our public buildings, for once,” Lou Camara, public works director, jokingly said before introducing Rick Ransom, a structural engineer with Brooks Ransom Associates.
After roughly sketching how the building’s trusses look and operate, Ransom said at first glance he thought there were some real problems with the trusses. However, his findings changed after he and a few other engineers took a closer look.
“What we found is we don’t have the kind of problem that I thought you had,” Random said. “It actually looks pretty-darn good for a truss built as long ago as that is.”
Due to a lack of tension, Ransom said a few web members — which join the top and bottom chords of a truss — had fallen out. After checking for code compliance, he also said he just found a little bit of overstress on some of the bottom chords.
Ransom complimented the craftsmanship of whoever constructed the roof back in the 1920s. He said the roof is salvageable and he thinks people could be back in the building for a relatively low price.
“Most engineers would consider this in very safe condition. I trust it isn’t going to come down,” Ransom said, adding the lumber back then was better than it is today as well.
Ransom said that he suggests putting new web members in place where the others fell out and retrofitting the trusses with some straps to secure all the web members. He also suggested removing the plaster ceiling that’s attached to the trusses, which will take a lot of weight off them.
From there, it’s just a matter of reinstalling lights and ceiling tiles and adding some new insulation, Ransom said.
“Bottom line, I think we’ve got a great opportunity to make this building pretty-darn safe,” Ransom said.
By his estimates, Ransom said it would cost about $10,000 to draw some construction plans, an estimated $40,000 for a contractor to tear out the plaster ceiling and reinstall ceiling tiles, and another $10,000 to repair the trusses; bringing the grand total of the project to about $60,000.
Members of Council seemed pleased with the news and excited about the prospect of getting people back in the building quickly and for less money than what they were expecting.
Councilman Justin Mendes said he thought the city should at least ask Kings County officials if they would like to help with the cost in order to save taxpayer money, a sentiment the rest of Council echoed.
The next step for the city will be to go out to bid for construction plans.
Although an exact timeline is unknown, the building could be inhabitable much sooner than what was previously estimated.