Liberty Mill analysis reveals structural problems, water damage


BELLOWS FALLS — A dilapidated building the Windham County Sheriff's Office wants to refurbish for use as a detention center has been extensively damaged by water and will require remediation before any work can begin.

That is one of the conclusions of an engineering analysis submitted by Stevens and Associates to Sheriff Keith Clark. He hopes to convert the Chemco building on Paper Mill Road into a facility with 155 beds, 120 of them for either federal or state male detainees, 20 for female detainees at either the state or federal level and 35 for those that are transitioning out or that are eligible for the electronic monitoring program.

Clark released an executive summary of the report on the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 3, but denied several requests to release the entire structural analysis conducted by Stevens and Associates.

"After discussing it with my legal counsel I am not releasing the full report," stated Clark in an email to the Reformer. "Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 318(a)(2), I am denying your request under 1 V.S.A. § 317(c)(13), which states that 'information pertaining to appraisals or purchase price of real or personal property for public purposes prior to the formal award of contracts thereof' is exempt from public inspection and copying. The information requested is exempt until we make a decision about the property."

Clark's proposal has been controversial in the Village of Bellows Falls and the town of Rockingham. A group of concerned citizens formed Rockingham For Progress in opposition to the proposal. Members of the group have also asked Clark for a copy of the analysis, which was produced after two site visits by Stevens and Associates on Nov. 12 and 13, 2015.

"The existing building, better known as Liberty Mill, was reviewed for its structural integrity to determine the feasibility of a future use as a detention and resource center for the Windham County Sheriff's Department," stated the excutive summary. "Previously an operating paper mill, the building is a three-story cast-in-place reinforced concrete structure originally built in the 1920s."

According to the summary, "the existing structure is in fair condition but deteriorating due to exposure to water. ... Water migration throughout the building has caused structural deficiencies at the south end of the building and along the western elevation. Temporarily enclosing the building, removing all standing water, and reconnecting all of the roof drains are recommended to stabilize the building."

The summary also noted that the building "appears to have been extensively vandalized."

While the existing floor slabs have the capacity to carry a "live load" of 100 pounds per square foot, however, "an alternative lateral force resisting system is required for future use ... The framing elements of the lateral system are either at or significantly over capacity. Options for an alternative lateral system include concrete shear walls or steel brace frames."

According to an engineering website, "Typical lateral loads would be a wind load against a facade, an earthquake, the earth pressure against a beach front retaining wall or the earth pressure against a basement wall."

The summary also notes that there are areas where the building's concrete is deteriorating and cracking. To push forward with the product means removing compromised material, replacement of reinforcing and patching of the concrete.

"Additional investigation is needed to inventory the full extent of structural repairs needed," stated the summary.

A description of the building was included in the summary: "The structure is partially built into grade between an active railroad and the Connecticut River. The floors and roof structure are flat slabs with drop panels bearing onto round interior columns and rectangular exterior columns. The perimeter of each level is lined with concrete spandrel beams and in-fill masonry walls."

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.


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