Gill officials grapple with ceiling, flooring removal after pipe burst at Town Hall

  • Gill Town Hall’s basement is filled with fans, air filters and humidifiers after a pipe burst in early February. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Portions of the wall and flooring in the Gill Town Hall basement, which had already been affected by ongoing moisture issues, were finally removed after a pipe burst in early February. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Gill Town Administrator Ray Purington holds up a piece of a heating pipe that burst at Town Hall in early February. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2023 12:36:08 PM

GILL — The town is exploring a full removal of the ceiling and flooring on the first floor of Town Hall after a pipe burst and caused heavy damage in early February.

The subzero weather over the weekend of Feb. 4 resulted in a pipe freezing and bursting in Town Clerk Doreen Stevens’ office, according to Town Administrator Ray Purington. This caused water to flood into multiple town offices, with the assessor’s office and adjacent hallway being the most severely affected.

Although wet ceiling tiles have been removed and “just about all of the basement” has been emptied, ongoing concern over the building’s moisture levels has prompted the town to consider further work, Purington said.

After the pipe burst, town employees started monitoring moisture levels and running humidifiers, fans and air filters, Purington explained during a Selectboard meeting on Feb. 13. This week, Purington told the Selectboard that a representative from restoration company ServiceMaster Restore expressed concern about moisture readings he took on Feb. 20. The representative recommended that the first floor of Town Hall’s asbestos ceiling tiles and wood flooring be removed.

Purington described the first floor of Town Hall as being constructed “like a sandwich cookie.” With the building’s asbestos tile flooring, current wood flooring and underlying original wood flooring layered together, water trapped within cannot be easily dried using devices that blow air.

An asbestos abatement expert came to Town Hall on Feb. 24 and is expected to send a cost estimate for abatement to the town’s insurance company, Purington said.

“We’re just in a ‘wait and see’ mode,” he clarified.

A three- to five-week service disruption could occur “if it becomes a full-blown asbestos abatement project,” Purington projected. The town will need to determine what capacity employees may continue to work during this time.

Aside from waiting on an estimate and word from the insurance company, Gill is “toying with ideas of what that future space should look like,” Purington said. One immediate consideration town officials are addressing involves the value of town documents in a vault that sustained some water damage.

“Generally speaking, [there was] no major loss on critical records,” Purington noted. “We’re still working through the ones that are damp and deciding whether we have to keep it or should have gotten rid of it years ago. Right now, the bulk of it is, ‘we should have gotten rid of it years ago.’”

The pipe burst has brought another future consideration to the forefront. Prior to the incident, the town was awarded a $50,000 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant to research consistent moisture issues in the Town Hall basement. Related work, Purington said, overlaps with what was necessitated by the burst pipe. The basement, he explained, was heavily affected when the pipe burst as “gravity took over” and water leaked downward.

“Some of the work that’s happening now as part of the basement flood is work that was going to need to happen before we refinished that space,” he explained. “I don’t want to rebuild those walls until we’ve stopped the water from coming in.”

Further considerations for the future of Town Hall include adding lockable storage and meeting space, as well as keeping the assessor’s office on the first floor where it is most easily accessible by the public.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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