BANGOR, Maine — City Hall needs a new roof, one that could set Bangor back to the tune of $275,000-$300,000, according to the city’s finance director. The costs of that and other potential repairs have some councilors wondering about what future upgrades to the 98-year-old building should look like.
The last time the city replaced the Harlow Street building’s roof was in 1999, when it spent just under $62,000 on a PVC membrane roof that had a 10-year expected life span. Fourteen years later, some of the rainiest summer months on record have revealed leaks that city staff worry will cause structural problems if not fixed soon.
Roofing contractors have told the city that the roof can’t be repaired and will need to be replaced, finance director Debbie Cyr said.
Cyr outlined the plan for councilors during a finance committee meeting Monday night inside Council Chambers. The roof would be replaced by a rubber membrane with a 30-year estimated life span. The city expects to find some problems in the underlying structure, such as insulation and decking problems, as it removes the current roof, and might have to bring in a crane to do some of the work. Those sorts of costs were factored into the estimate.
“Until we get up there and start removing the material, we won’t know exactly the extent of what will need to be replaced,” Cyr said.
It’s likely that the final bid to do the project would come in under $300,000, as Cyr tends to estimate costs using the worst-case scenario.
The project could be paid for through a bond, which would not affect the city budget until next year. If the cost is lower than expected, the city might be able to find some other funding mechanism, Cyr said.
During the committee meeting, Councilors supported the roof project as a necessary cost, but it also spurred talk about replacing the windows — a costly and, for some councilors, less vital effort.
Cyr said City Hall’s 83 wooden-framed windows are in “atrocious” shape.
The city has discussed the need for new windows off and on over the past three years. Cyr said that if the city were to replace them with modern vinyl windows, each costing more than $2,000, the city’s bill would be more than $170,000. Those vinyl windows likely would last more than 20 years.
Repairing and refurbishing the current windows would cost about half as much, but the repairs likely would only buy a few extra years.
If the window replacement were to move ahead, the council would need to ensure they meet the requirements of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Councilor Ben Sprague questioned whether windows were needed because it would mean spending “a lot of money we don’t have right now. Just because we can bond it doesn’t mean we should,” he said.
Others felt the city should further explore the potential benefits of new windows.
“Even if we get to the point some day where we say, ‘OK, we’ve really got to cut back, we’ve got to sell city hall,’ it’s going to fetch a higher price with modern, energy-efficient windows,” said Councilor David Nealley. He asked city staff to look into what energy savings the city might see if it were to install new vinyl windows.
Councilors and city officials have been weighing the future of City Hall for years. Some see the current arrangement of the first floor as archaic and inefficient. The way offices and departments are divided up on the first floor means visitors have to stop in multiple places to accomplish tasks that could all be done in one room or at least nearby rooms if departments were arranged in a way that provided for better “visitor flow,” city officials have said.
The building became City Hall in 1969 after the federal government moved its offices to a building farther down Harlow Street. The old City Hall was demolished as part of the city’s urban renewal efforts. Councilors also have complained about the building’s handicapped accessibility.
“We have some serious deficiencies in this building,” said Council Chairman Nelson Durgin, adding that he would like to see the city come up with a plan for how to handle future renovations to the building before moving ahead with things like window replacement.
“I think we need to be looking at what the future prospects are for the building in this city,” Durgin said.