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August 10, 2010 - 7:29am

Council approves repairs to eliminate white streaks on City Hall

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city centre.

A solution may have been found for the white streaks on the red bricks of City Hall.

sally_kuzon.jpgOn Monday, City Council approved a $31,500 contract with Highland Masonry and Restoration Inc., of Buffalo, to replace 46 windows and sills with material that won't run and create new streaks.

Once the building's cleaned up and the new windows are in place, the building should be more attractive, officials say.

"It does bother the citizens of Batavia," said City Council President Marrianne Clattenburg. "I get comments on it all the time – when are you going to fix those windows?"

Director of Public Works Sally Kuzon said the city tried two different replacement or repair options on three different windows on the building. The replacement process showed the most success on two windows, so the city then sought bids for the work on the remaining 46 windows.

frank_ferrando.jpgCouncilman Sam Barone was the only council member to object to the work, saying he was concerned about the expense and that he could live with the situation.

The city did budget $27,000 for the project. The $4,500 shortfall will be taken from the city's facilities reserve.

Councilwoman Patti Pacino was among the council members who questioned why the city couldn't sue the contractor who installed the windows, or the architect who wrote the specs.

"I still don't understand how it's not some body's fault," Pacino said.

City Attorney George Van Nest explained that the building contractor was merely going off the plans and specs provided by the architect when the building was erected five years ago, so couldn't be held libel.

As for going after the architect, he said expert opinion, according to his research, varies on the proper construction process and materials for installing windows in a masonry building, making getting a win on a lawsuit much more difficult.

"Legal action could cost more than the project itself," said City Manager Jason Molino.

patti_pacino.jpgBoth Molino and Van Nest explained that winter-time construction and the compounds used in installing the windows at that time of year may be the reason the streaks appeared. Van Nest said he's seen the same problem appear on buildings in Buffalo.

"In my opinion, this is a beautiful building and those stains under the windows really detract from it," said councilman Frank Ferrando. "I think we owe it to this community and the investment that we made here that we make it look good. This is our downtown. This is something we should all be very proud of."

Photos: Kuzon, Ferrando, Pacino.

Peter O'Brien
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You know what else is our downtowm? The empty store fronts, the empty mall, the horribly designed parking lot near Tim Horton's, the more than likely disappearing Muckdogs... But that's all crap that doesn't need fixing, instead lets spend 31.5 thousand dollars (more than half the cost of my house) on some windows. All this is, is an attempt to justify keeping the taxes high. Its the we need to spend our budget in order to justify getting the same money from the earners next year. Same thing happened in the Navy, September would roll around and all of a sudden we would go on a huge spending spree so that we used the budget up.
mark jackett
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windows? what windows? aren't they new? its a new building they should of built the place better the first time it cost enough . what a wast PETER has it correct don't we have enough issues that need attention first
Lisa Falkowski
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I'm all for making the city's investment look good, but ... 1) is this all the city politician's have to be concerned about? 2) is it worth spending more money in correcting the problem than it was putting up the project to begin with?
Bryant Tyson
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How much would it cost for a city worker,high lift, bucket of soapy water, and a scrub brush? Maybe once or twice a year While there up there they could even clean the windows. If the stains are from the compounds used to install the windows. Why can't the window be removed cleaned up and reinstalled with the correct compounds? Why buy new windows?
Charlie Mallow
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I heard these complaints as well when I was on Council. Public input directs priorities. Also, the city budget has long term planning in place for maintenance. The city is in good shape and planned spending to maintain buildings and equipment shouldn’t be a cause for overreaction. We are talking about maintaining a multimillion dollar building. The building shouldn’t have been built in the first place but, now that it has it needs to be maintained. The only thing worse than buying it in the first place would be to now let it fall apart.
John Roach
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When the new City Hall was being built, public opposition was minimal. Now were stuck with it. The real question is do we fix the problem or let it go?
Chris Charvella
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Charlie, I see where you're coming from and I understand that money was budgeted specifically for this project, but I'm still having trouble rationalizing the expense. The median household income in Batavia is $33,484 with just over 10% of city residents living below the poverty line. We're talking about spending a year's salary on a cosmetic issue. I know the streaks on the building are ugly, but in an era of belt tightening it's tough for me to justify this.
Charlie Mallow
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Chris, I also understand your side. The building also needs to last a 100 years and a good part of my tax bill is still going to pay for a building that looks like crap. I personally never gave the chalk on the building a second look but, as Marianne says here a lot of city residents do. I know firsthand that Council has been given a good amount of negetive feedback. The public expects their building to be maintained. The problem we had in the past was that small maintenance was overlooked to the point that we couldn’t afford to fix holes in our roofs. You can’t neglect small repairs and then hope that one day you will catch up. We do small repairs to our homes before they become big concerns. The scale of those costs is much greater when it comes to a multimillion dollar building. So, the comparison to our home budgets is not a good one. I personally would never allow chalk stains to develop on the side of my house. Would you?
Chris Charvella
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Like I said Charlie, I get it, it's just tough to swallow. In fatter times I wouldn't give this a second thought, but since the issue is purely cosmetic... Well I think you see where I'm coming from.
Charlie, No I wouldn't. I understand all of this. Here is where I have a problem... The people who do the most complaining are the ones who do the least amount of work. Our downtown is emptying out, sidewalks are still left in disrepair throughout the city, the mall continues to be a waste (although I applaud those business owners who have been refacing! Such an improvement), We will soon have an empty baseball stadium that we paid millions for, Slum Lords continue to rent out to tenants that bring drugs and crime to our streets with no end in sight, our unions get raises while the unemployment rate still hovers around 10%, no econiomic development has been invested bringing any new businesses downtown, no open government initiatives have been made and our taxes will continue to rise this year. No offense, but when your "representatives", except a few, are public employees with state pensions...this is what we get. Nobody represents my family on this council. The only person that did got fed up of the BS and left eight months ago. I was promised "vision" last year. All I see is a bunch of people playing government.
Laurie McCoy
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Are the "old" windows going to be donated to Habitat for Humanity, or some other worthy project to be reused????
John Roach
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Phil, Do you think the work should be done or not?
John, Nope. I'm not saying I don't understand, but I'm sick of this council spending $31K on a "it would be nice" project, while ignoring a plothera of larger issues.
John Roach
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Phil, OK on the window issue. Since you brought it up, what would you do to fix the sidewalks? That is going to cost a lot of money, and ideas.
Mark Janofsky
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The white “chalk” is called efflorescence. It’s caused by water seeping through the block/brick. When the water surfaces it brings dissolved salts from the block/brick with it. When the water evaporates, salt stains are left behind. For now it’s only an appearance issue. In the future, dissolution of the salts will leave small voids in the block/brick and the freeze-thaw action of the water in the voids will eventually “pop” the block/brick. The best way to remove the salts is to acid wash the brick. The only way to prevent it is to stop the water from penetrating the block/brick. This prevention is usually done in manufacture of the material or an application at the time of installation. At this point an after market sealer should be used after an acid wash. The cause is due to improper specification (engineer/architect fault); improper installation (contractor fault); and/or improper manufacture of building material (supplier/manufacture fault). The proper course of action is to go after the engineer/ architect. If they can defend themselves, their defense will prove who’s at fault. If they’re found at fault, they pay for the fix.
dennis wight
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what about mr. Tyson's idea? There's no way that would cost anywhere near 31k. When did these stains start to appear on this 5 year old, 9 million dollar structure? about 18 months after it was built and there's no way to go back on the contractor if the wrong materials were used? UN-F-ING-BELIEVABLE!!!
Chris Charvella
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It's not going to work that way Mark. They already discovered that the problem was caused more by the timing of the build (in the winter) than by the materials used. The City Manager and City Attorney did their homework here pretty thoroughly. There is no action to be taken other than replacing the mortar in the windowsills with caulk or simply ignoring the streaks.
Mark Janofsky
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I don't agree Chris. There are construction methods and materials to prevent this from happening.
mark jackett
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let the city workers clean it with acid and sealer like the other gentleman said and see what happens or let them drive around on the gator to pick weeds and water plants everyday . the other day i seen the city employees with the gator way out by the honda store on east main. is that still the city limit?
Chris Charvella
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It's not really a matter of agreeing with me or not Mark, there will be no lawsuit. The gist of Molino and VanNest's remarks was that there really wasn't a way to prove fault and attempting to file and win a lawsuit against either the Architect or the GC would cost more than just fixing the problem. You seem to know a good deal about the building trades and I respect your experience, I'm just telling you wha twas said at the Council meeting last night.
John Roach
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Mark, The city tried that before. The stuff leaks from under the window frame like Chris said. The only way to stop it is to take out the window, do the repair and then put the window back in.
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This is a typical problem when dealing with (lowest bidder type) projects . A private project would have never let this fly by under the radar. Look at the other brick facade from private projects up the street with no lowest bidder mentality.The Clerk of Works should have went over the specs with a fine tooth comb. And if the weather wasn't right for doing this work when it was done , than it should have been postponed. The cost of 30 something thousand dollars is not a bad price to do the work as long as its done right. It would probably cost our city workers more than that cosidering all the (stand around )workers it would take. One would work and the rest would watch , not to mention it would have been done wrong and we would have to do it again .
Peter O'Brien
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Thomas, they get paid anyways so this 31k on top of their salaries.
Bea McManis
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Chris, Keep working on this problem so I can catch up in bejeweled. :/
Chris Charvella
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Never gonna happen Bea. You are encouraged to watch the video of my most recent 600k+ score and cry yourself to sleep though.
John, It's a budget issue. There is no system in place to prioritize and do actual work on the sidewalks anymore. The little money that has been placed off to the side hasn't even been utilized currently. It's either a priority or it's not. You can't fund that line item with a token amount. We either dedicate to doing it or we continue to go in the direction that we are heading. I can't believe that with all of the grants in the world that there isn't something to help fund this.
Ouch Chris...Are you smack talking Bea?
John Roach
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Phil, The city did get some grants at times for sidewalk repair (but it is never enough). I was just wondering if you supported a tax increase to fix them? If you do, should it be a general tax levy increase or a property tax surcharge?
No I don't support a tax increase, but that is because I feel there are areas that we could save a ton of money that this "City" will never do, but you and I have already talked about that before :-)
Chris Charvella
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Yes, Phil, I am. No one has measured up to my Bejeweled skills yet :)
Mark Potwora
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They do need to correct those stains on city hall..But not at the taxpayers expense..Patty Pacino asked the right question..Why have a city atty..he doesn't want to go after those who are responsible.Claims that it will cost more than what the fix cost is.Thats bull,you sue for the cost of repair and any and all court cost.Did they even try to work something out..Using his attitude towards this why go go after some one who shoplifted 20 dollars worth of items from a store ,it would cost more to prosecute..People sue all the time for issues like this and win..Where was our building inspector when this was being built...Im so glad the city council is looking out for us tax payers.. The main reason why they city has its finances in order is because of the tax rate they have raised.. And what if this problem happens again....Do we just say oh well..
Mark Potwora
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They do need to correct those stains on city hall..But not at the taxpayers expense..Patty Pacino asked the right question..Why have a city atty..he doesn't want to go after those who are responsible.Claims that it will cost more than what the fix cost is.Thats bull,you sue for the cost of repair and any and all court cost.Did they even try to work something out..Using his attitude towards this why go go after some one who shoplifted 20 dollars worth of items from a store ,it would cost more to prosecute..People sue all the time for issues like this and win..Where was our building inspector when this was being built...Im so glad the city council is looking out for us tax payers.. The main reason why they city has its finances in order is because of the tax rate they have raised.. And what if this problem happens again....Do we just say oh well..
Chris Charvella
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Mark, one of the things that was said at the meeting last night by the City Manager was (loosely quoted) 'We have to understand that there are sometimes there are issues that can't be seen ahead of time.' I happen to agree with him here. He and the City Attorney did their due diligence in researching the cause of the streaks and have come to the conclusion that a court case would be either very expensive or un-winnable and probably both. They found out that efflorescence is a fairly common occurrence in buildings of this type and that the cause of it had more to do with the weather during construction than with the quality of materials used. The architect specified building materials that were reasonable and proper for that type of project and the general contractor complied with the scope of work within the limits set forth in the contract. City Council approved the building spec so what is there to do? Patty Pacino expressed some concern last night that council approves specifications that they have no expertise in, and while I understand where she's coming from, in matters like this both municipal and personal, we tend to trust the judgment of the experts we hire. The city can choose not to use whatever architect they hired ever again I suppose, but there will be no monetary relief.
Bea McManis
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City upkeep is expensive. If there is no money in the budget for sidewalk repair then why not consider taking our sidewalks back to dirt paths. A path would be far more safe than attempting to walk on broken sidewalks. Did Chris say that no one can measure up to his jewels? ooops, I meant bejewels.
Mark Janofsky
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Who was the architect that designed the building and who was the contractor that built it?
Mark Potwora
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Bea i do agree with you..Were did this money come from..The side walks and street do need to come first..I have 2 section of side walk in front of my house that the city broke while taking down a tree and wont replace,they will wait until someone falls and get hurt..Chris thanks for your point of view on this ..It's hard to believe that no one knew this was going to happen when they built city hall,especial since as you say its a common occurrence on buildings of this type..If that is the case than the architect should of known and should be held libel...And if this is what the city asked for in the specs for the building than are we to say the city was the party at fault for this.That who every we had for a city engineer and building inspector was asleep on this one..
John Roach
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Mark, You'd have to go and check the records at City Hall for that information or look up the Daily News stories about it. But the City Atty. seemed say the contractor did nothing wrong, he just did what was designed and asked to build. He built it the way it was specified.
Lisa Falkowski
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8/11/10 ... Now, the City has approved all of this money to make those repairs/clean-up? You're kidding! How about sending Genesee County Jail inmates up on a ladder with a bucket of hot, soapy water and a sponge a couple of times a year. Does the City actually go out of their way to find reasons to spend money foolishly?
Frank Bartholomew
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I think the question is, do we spend 31k now, or a couple 100k later, or let the building fall apart. If the powers that be have looked at legal recourse, and none is there, we have to bite the bullet. I don't like the idea of this kind of spending on a new building, but again, it can't be allowed to fall apart. My only other question is, who made the decision to go ahead with construction with knowledge of the possibilty the materials would lose integrity?
Frank Bartholomew
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Lisa, although sending inmates up on ladders to do the repairs sounds like a great idea, what kind of liability does that put on the taxpayers? If one of the inmates is injured seriously, I'm certain it would make the 31k look like a bargain.

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