Bowdoinham homing in on safety problems at recycling barn

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BOWDOINHAM — Bowdoinham selectmen are grappling with what to do about its leased recycling barn, which has failed both fire and engineering inspections.

There were several fire safety issues with the town’s recycling barn cited in a recent report by the fire marshal’s office and structural problems documented by an engineering firm that inspected the structure in June.

The town leases a portion of the three-story building, a renovated chicken barn, from the town’s former solid waste director David Berry, a Bowdoinham resident. The town’s recycling program has been housed in the building for 30 years.

“We need to discontinue the use of the second and third floors immediately,” Interim Town Manager Nicole Briand told selectmen on Tuesday.

The state fire marshal’s office inspected the building on June 2 and lists 29 violations of the National Fire Protection Association codes and standards.

The fire marshal’s report states that there should be two exits from each story and exit doors should swing in the direction of travel instead of inward as they do currently. A few of the doors stick and there is exposed wiring. Fall protection is also needed in areas and the exit stairways need to be enclosed. The building also lacks adequate emergency lighting.

The report also states that the exit stairwell should be equipped with handrails and meet dimensional requirements. Berry said that refers to a stairwell used by town staff only that a half-foot too narrow. There is an exit stairway on the south side of the building for the second and third floors that complies with the rules, he argued.

The report also states that an apartment on the third floor was constructed without a construction permit from the state fire marshal’s office, and requires upgrades to meet safety standards.

The apartment building was built before the last 1989 fire marshal’s office inspection and was grandfathered from the rules at that time, Berry said.

Berry said he will have to inform the fire marshal’s office about how he will address the violations cited by the fire marshal’s office, and when. He plans to meet with selectmen soon to determine exactly what repairs are needed and who will pay for them.

“Some new issues have been brought up and whether those (fixes) have to be borne by me or the town, we can work that out,” Berry said Thursday.

On Tuesday, the town received a report from Richmond-based Calderwood Engineering, which also inspected the recycling barn building in 2013 following a roof collapse due to snow. In the 2013 report, the company cited structural issues with the roof and its weight-bearing capacity. The recommended repairs were estimated to cost as much as $115,000 and Briand said Tuesday is expected to be significantly more expensive now.

None of those changes have been made according to an Aug. 10 memo from Calderwood engineer Thad Chamberlain following the firm’s June 24 inspection of the building. Chamberlain states that those changes and some additional repairs are needed to bring the building up to code.

“I’m totally willing to work with the selectmen,” Berry said, to address the problems with the building.

Briand said the town needs to get cost estimates on repairs to make the building safe for staff and the public to be on the first floor. The town’s lease is up in June.

“Are we staying in the barn and what’s the cost to do so,” she said. “Or is there another plan and what’s the cost of the second plan.”


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