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Engineers say burn building needs to be replaced

Engineers say burn building needs to be replaced

Last month Macon County commissioners said they wanted a second opinion on the remaining lifespan of the first responder training center at its Southwestern Community College campus.

Engineers said the prognosis was clear — the building needs to be replaced within the next 12 to 18 months.

An engineering report performed for SCC last year came to the same conclusion, but commissioners voted to hire their own engineering consultants to see if there was any hope of extending the life of the building before they decide whether to invest the money needed to replace it. 

The burn building replacement is on SCC’s priority list to receive funding from the Connect N.C. Bond that was passed by referendum earlier this year. Revenue from the bond can cover 100 percent of renovation projects, but counties are required to pay a portion of new construction projects. 

SCC estimates replacing the burn building would cost $2 million — bond revenue will pay for $1.5 million and Macon County would have to contribute another $500,000. 

At the commissioners’ request, Construction Science and Engineering Inc., has reviewed documents pertaining to the burn building and did a visual survey to estimate the remaining service life of the structure.

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The burn building is a three-story pre-cast concrete and masonry brick structure supported by a slab on grade concrete foundation. It was constructed around 1990, and live fires are used in the building for firefighter training. The tower is located in a flood zone and the area around the structure floods several times a year. 

According to documents from SKA Consulting Engineers, the firm that designed the structure, the service life of the building has been exceeded and repairs would not eliminate the need to replace the building. 

CSE’s conclusion is similar to the results from SKA’s 2015 report. 

“Specifically, the deterioration of the masonry brick shelf that supported the concrete panels at the north and south walls could result in a partial failure of the precast concrete panel,” SKA’s report stated.

Macon commissioners specifically asked CSE to examine whether remedial work could be performed to extend the building life by 10 years. CSE reported that it could not propose or recommend a repair with any degree of engineering certainty to extend the building’s life by 10 years. 

“The building is subject to harsh conditions that will result in further deterioration of the masonry brick walls and recast concrete panels. CSE is doubtful any proposed remedial work would extend the service life of an additional 10 years,” the report said.

Until the building can be replaced, CSE recommended live burns be limited to the two rooms currently used on the first and third floor.  

Commissioner Gary Shields, who also serves on the SCC Board of Trustees, said commissioners needed to figure out their next move. He added that the county needed to work closely with SCC to ensure the new building would meet the requirements outlined in SCC’s first responder training curriculum. 

Since so many first responders outside of Macon County travel to Franklin to use the burn building, Commissioner Ronnie Beale said the board might want to consider implementing a fee for outside agencies using the facility to recoup some of the local expense.

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