If buildings had feelings, you could almost feel sorry for the Genesee Justice/Jail building at 14 West Main.
It's been more than a century since the building, which once served as home for the County Sheriff, got a new roof. In fact, the roof you see crumbling atop the structure now is the original one from 1903.
The County Legislature's Ways & Means Committee approved a $264,000 bid for a synthetic slate roof to be installed by Grove Roofing Services of Buffalo.
Yesterday's vote was proceeded by some controversy. At the April 15 meeting, legislators questioned the authority of the city's Historic Preservation Board to disallow an asphalt roof, and after we reported that story on The Batavian, some readers raised concerns about the overall cost of the project.
After the bid was approved, I spoke with Terry Ross, supervisor of buildings and grounds for the county who explained that the size and complexity of the roof contribute greatly to the cost.
While prevailing wage rules do add to the expense, ensuring the building is well protected and maintains its historic look is not cheap.
Two significant factors in the expense, besides just the size, unusual shapes and slopes of the roof, are the need to replace all of the copper valleys as well as asbestos removal.
"It's a multi-faceted roof with many angels and it will be very labor intensive to replace," Ross said.
The roof is in such bad shape, it's been patched so many times, Ross said, that it is beyond further repair.
"There's no leaking yet, but there will be if it's not replaced," Ross said. "The slate is no longer in any condition that it can be repaired."
Even though legislators initially objected to the city blocking replacement with an asphalt root, which would be $67,000 cheaper, committee members agreed yesterday that putting on a synthetic slate roof made better business sense. It will last at least 50 years compared to 25 years for asphalt shingles.
"This is the best choice and a wise business recommendation," committee chairman Charles Zambito said. "Shingles don't cost as much but the synthetic slate doubles the life of the roof, so there's no point in fighting the city."
Zambito earlier noted that there was no case law or other precedent suggesting the county to beat the city in any legal argument over the city's authority on the choice of roofing material.
The committee approved the bid on a unanimous voice vote.