OCHS auditorium floor to be replaced

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File photo / Water is being pumped out of the Ocean City High School auditorium after Hurricane Sandy caused flooding on the adjacent street. File photo / Water is being pumped out of the Ocean City High School auditorium after Hurricane Sandy caused flooding on the adjacent street.

OCEAN CITY — The Ocean City school board approved $750,000 to cover all costs related to the long saga of the leaky, wet floor in the auditorium of Ocean City High School, at its Wednesday, Feb. 27 meeting.

To remedy what officials say appears to be a faulty water proofing system, the entire auditorium floor will have to be replaced. The work will begin the day after graduation in June and should be completed before school begins in September.

Water infiltration has been a problem at the Bill and Nancy Hughes Performing Arts Center since November 2009. The 242,000 square foot facility opened in 2004.

“Five years later, we saw the first water infiltration,” said business administrator Tom Grossi, as he laid out a timeline for the board. “The fall of 2009 and the winter and spring of 2010 were the wettest in recent history. We had extreme snow and rain and the water table was at the 100-year level, we were told. We were also told that we would not see this problem again in our lifetimes.”

Then water infiltrated again, so Grossi said the school district attempted to find a solution.

“At this time, we took measures to have the original contractors from the original project come back and make repairs, but they just didn’t work,” he said.

The contractor sealed joints with waterproof sealant, and applied a liquid membrane sealant to the exposed wall sections.

“We thought we’d never see this again in our lifetimes,” he said, but the water returned, with a vengeance.

“So we needed to know why this was happening,” he said.

In early 2011, the school district administration and the buildings and grounds board committee met with construction professionals to discuss possible remedies, he said.

In February 2011, the district went out to bid on an interceptor drain project, which included the installation of a sump pump along the front of the auditorium. The bids came in with a wide range of costs, so it was decided at that time, Grossi said, to move forward with a lawsuit due to concerns “as to whether this was the real solution to the problem,” he said.

“Until recently, we were hoping to come to a resolution on the lawsuit that would be able to fund a solution,” Grossi said. “And then Sandy hit.”

During Hurricane Sandy, water infiltrated the auditorium.

“The problem returned, within 2 and-a-half years,” he said.

Caulking was not the solution.

“It was evident, since the first attempts to fix the problem did not work, that we needed a more extensive solution,” he said. “We really needed to know the cause of the problem.”

The district, he said, is now taking the advice of “construction professionals,” including a civil engineer, forensic consultant and construction attorney.
“We removed a 3-foot by 12-foot section of the auditorium flooring,” he said, in an area where water infiltration was apparent.

“We did this for two reasons,” Grossi said.

The first was to view the construction and try and determine why water was infiltrating, and the second was to come up with preventative measures.

“We wanted a permanent solution for the water problem,” Grossi said.

The professionals determined that there are structural deficiencies.

“This aspect of the problem is being handled in the current lawsuit,” he said. “Based on their inspection, our construction officials have determined that the waterproofing system was not properly installed.”

They recommended that the waterproofing system must be replaced.

“In order to do this, the entire auditorium flooring would have to be removed and replaced,” he said.

The project would take place over the summer.

“We are aiming to start the project the day after graduation,” Grossi said.

The $750,000 allocated for the project includes the removal and storage of auditorium chairs, removal of carpeting, sound system controls, protection of lights and curtains, removal of paneling on the face of the stage, demolition, construction and civil engineering costs, quality control measures, containment and preventative measures, installation of new paneling where required, reinstallation of chairs, carpeting, cleanup restoration and any expedited costs to get the auditorium ready for the opening of school in September.

“Any funds not used for this project will be transferred to the capital reserve fund for future projects,” Grossi said.

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