Sagging floors and a surprise at City Hall

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By Jenna McKenna

Like every other historic building in Cedar Key's downtown, City Hall needs a little TLC. A combination of additions and renovations, termites, hurricanes and flooding has made the floors sag in the tidy little building.

Local Planning Agency (LPA) director and local builder Greg Lang had crawled under the building to make an informal report on damage to the building at this week's meeting of Cedar Key Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). What he found was neither unexpected, nor particularly alarming - at least not for the future of the building.

City Hall's floors are sagging in the center hallway, near the water fountain, and back in the Police Department, where a two-year-old vinyl tile floor has cracked completely off the subfloor in some areas. The cause, Lang said, was a combination of minor insect and water damage to some joists, and some support piers that were either incomplete at construction, or that had begun to erode away from the joists they were bearing.

Lang made a slide show of photos from under the building, which elicited gasps when he showed termite damage to joists immediately around the floor access panel.

He hastily noted that the damage was less extensive than it looked, adding, "I didn't see any living termites, but I'm not a termite expert."

None of the other joists showed nearly that amount of damage, although Lang did point to one area that showed a white mineral line that he said was a flood line. Other slides showed some of the building's support piers, made of a combination of poured concrete, brick, and on one side, the original tabby footer from of the old Bettelini Hotel that originally occupied the site. Some of the piers were straight and intact, others had crumbling brick, and one pier was never completed and stopped some 18 inches below the joist.

The more alarming problem, which was initially incidental to Lang's structural findings, was the minor sewage leak from where the building's PVC sewer pipe meets the city's old cast iron sewer pipe.

"It's not a lot, but every time you flush the toilet, it does leak a little sewage," Lang said.

CRA board member Sue Colson expressed alarm on seeing the leak.

"Can we fix that first?" she asked. "Like, immediately? That's a public health issue. We need to address that right now."

CRA members agreed to call a local plumber to address the leak promptly. Lang had also photographed several electrical wires and fresh water lines that were not properly secured, and audience member Lucile Andrews wanted the electric cables secured immediately as well. CRA director Jackie Gorman agreed to call an electrician at the same time as the plumber.

Board member Vanessa Edmunds asked Lang if repairing the plumbing first would set back the process of shoring up the floors, and Lang said he doubted it.

Gorman then asked Lang if, since building consultant Ken Fonorow was nearly ready to issue a recommendation on repairs to the Public Library, he might be able to recommend a contractor to repair the City Hall supports at the same time. Lang said that was likely.

Board member Gene Hodges asked Gorman if city or CRA funds would be used to repair City Hall, and Gorman said it would probably be a combination, since CRA offices take up about half the building's office space.

"Our budget's tight," Hodges reminded her, speaking for the city.