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Engineers conclude that first floor of complex sound, second floor not

Published September 15. 2010 05:00PM

The first floor of the former Coaldale High school, now known as the Coaldale Complex, is structurally sound, but load-carrying structures on the second floor have been damaged by years of water leaks and neglect, according to engineers who inspected the massive, 88-year-old building in July.

The first floor of the building, which houses the Carbon County Head Start program, "should not be occupied when there is any snow on the roof as this could cause further distress to the structural members," the engineers wrote in a letter to Coaldale Borough Council.

Carbon County Head Start this summer extensively renovated the first floor to accommodate a new program. Children resumed classes in the building on Aug. 30, after summer vacation.

Bernetta Frantz, director of Children and Family Development Services for Pathstone, which administers the Head Start program in Carbon County, could not comment on the matter. She referred questions to Kay Washington, Pathstone Senior Executive Director, Child and Family Development Services in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Efforts to reach Washington on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The Aug. 25 letter, from Alfred Benesch & Co. Project Engineer Gregory J. Kuklinski and Vice-president/Division Manager George M. Horas, gave a brief overview of the July 27 inspection of the building at Sixth and Phillips streets.

Council members on Tuesday each received copies of the full report. However, they want to study the findings before discussing the matter when they meet at 7 p.m. Oct. 11.

"During the cursory site inspection, the first floor of the building was found to be structurally sound, but there were major structural deficiencies found on the second floor of the building to load carrying members," Kuklinski and Horas wrote in their letter. "Years of water infiltration and neglect have caused main structural members to deteriorate, which was evident by section loss and missing sections of concrete arch roofing joists, section loss on the steel trusses and plaster from the ceiling currently cracking and falling to the floor."

Kuklinski and Horas wrote that the inspection did not "include a detailed analysis of all the structural members of the building, nor was every structural meber checked that was either above plaster or ceiling tiles." the engineers wrote that the first floor could remain open, and the playground at the building poses no threat to children.

However, they wrote, everything being stored on the second floor should be moved, and anyone going up there should wear a hardhat.

Council hired Benesch & Co. for $3,800 on July 13 after Councilman David Yelito and Mayor Richard Corkery argued the complex, built in 1922 to house the Coaldale High School, was dangerously deteriorated.

The high school closed in the early 1960s, when the Panther Valley School District was formed, uniting high schools in Coaldale, Summit Hill, Nesquehoning and Lansford. the borough acquired the building in 1974.

In a related matter Tuesday, borough solicitor Michael Greek told council to meet with the Coaldale Complex Commission, which operates the building, about bills the borough has been receiving for a 2009 roof repair project. The Commission hired the contractors to do the work, and the bills should be going there, he said.

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