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Carbon awards contracts for proposed office building; residents air concerns

Published February 16. 2019 06:24AM

Carbon County awarded over $12.6 million in contracts to eight companies who will construct a three-story office building and parking garage on Susquehanna Street in Jim Thorpe.

The successful bidders for the proposed project are Slaw Precast of Lehighton, $3,920,000 for precast work; Bracy Contracting Inc. of Allentown, $4,803,680 for general construction; D & M Construction Unlimited Inc. of Clarks Summit, $1,165,462.73 for rock removal; Schindler Elevator Corp. of Allentown, $79,500 for elevator construction; Davis-Ulmer Sprinkler Company of Beach Lake, $217,900 for fire protection; JBM Mechanical Inc. of Nazareth, $396,000 for plumbing construction; Tri-County Mechanical Inc. of East Texas, $706,000 for mechanical construction; and Orlando Diefenderfer of Allentown, $1,338,500 for electrical construction.

The actions taken by the county commissioners on Thursday did not come without a number of residents first urging them to rethink the matter, do additional studies and testing, and postpone the contracts.

Eight residents addressed the board prior to the commissioners approving the recommendations for the contracts.

Most voiced their concern about the vibrations of the proposed 40 feet of rock removal below St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church and the potential damage to the building and its Tiffany stained-glass window that could occur as a result of the work.

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said that the county has contracted Vibra-Tech Engineers Inc. of Hazleton to complete vibration testing before the rock removal and then monitor the vibrations during the project. In addition, he said a clause in the rock removal contract requires the contractor to obtain a second vibration monitoring company for the project.

“We are doing everything we possibly can,” he said.

Doug Rudenko of Vibra-Tech outlined what the company will do before the start of rock removal.

“The plan for this particular project is to do an inspection of the interior and exterior of church structure; take some baseline monitoring to determine the dynamic characteristics of the structure, in particular the natural frequency the Tiffany glass window vibrates at,” he said.

Vibra-tech will then use the baseline as one factor to develop a vibration monitoring control plan that will set amplitude and frequency limits for the vibrations.

“We’ll also review the means and methods that the contractor proposes to use, the type of equipment they propose to use, where the equipment will be used, and we’ll make predictions of the vibrations that that equipment will produce based on the specifications for that equipment,” Rudenko said. “That will allow us to see, before anything happens, if the vibrations will meet the criteria or not. If they don’t meet the criteria then the contractor will have to find another piece of equipment that will allow them to meet the vibration limits.”

Once the plan is in place, Vibra-Tech will install monitors to continuously monitor construction activity.

Diane Prokop, owner of the Times House that is located next to St. Mark’s, asked if the county will make the vibration figures and plan available to the public so the residents understand what is happening.

“These buildings are 150 years old,” she said. “We are stewards of them. We need to preserve these buildings for the future.”

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said he sees no problem with making the information public.

“We all care,” he said. “ … We have taken every necessary precautionary step. I can assure you. … We are going to do this at the highest level of professionalism as we possibly can and we will be as transparent with the property owners, surrounding buildings and the church from start to finish.”

Chad Ingram, a geotechnical engineer of Ingram Engineering, the company that performed the initial study of the proposed building site, added that their study found that the “subsurface geology to be sufficient for the building,” and that a second engineer will be designing the rock stabilization plan for the mountain face that remains after the removal.

He added that the contractor for the rock removal has “extensive experience in this throughout the whole region.”

Resident Mary Ann Lewellyn asked if the vibrations show the equipment the contractor can use is only pick axes, is that what they will use instead of hydraulics.

Tony Ganguzza, vice president of professional services for the project manager, Boyle Construction of Allentown, said yes.

The Susquehanna Street building project will include a two-level, 110-space secured parking garage and 25,000 square feet of office space and will be situated in the current parking lot of the 76 Susquehanna offices and site of the maintenance building, which will be demolished.

Carbon County has been working on building additional office space since 2016 when the commissioners refinanced the county’s bonds to free up approximately $7 million for capital projects.

Those include constructing a maintenance building at the upper end of the county parking lot, relocating the archives office to the east side of Jim Thorpe and matching grant requirements for the proposed multiuse fire training facility in Nesquehoning.

To cover the remaining cost of the new office building, the commissioners, also on Thursday, hired RBC Capital Markets LLC to serve as the sole underwriter for a proposed 30-year bond totaling approximately $9 million.

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