Bath gymnasium now an emergency?

Published 3:42 am Wednesday, June 24, 2009

By Staff
When does a ongoing issue that probably took years and years to develop suddenly become an emergency?
Now, evidently — at least according to Beaufort County Schools and the Beaufort County Board of Education.
During Monday night’s meeting, the school board heard that fixing the walls around the Bath Elementary School gymnasium would cost a whopping $290,000. And according to interim schools’ Superintendent William Rivenbark, the gymnasium “is an emergency project.”
The gym’s problems are due to water infiltration, said architect Jimmy Hite, who recently reviewed the site.
We’re probably just not savvy enough about structural matters, but it’s not as though a tornado ripped apart the building in one gigantic swoosh. Normal water infiltration — as opposed to hurricane damage, for instance — seems to erode structures over time, so why is the project only now being seriously considered?
Hite told the board Monday that it will cost more than $290,000 to removed a brick facade, waterproof the underlying cinderblock wall, install new metal anchors to attach the brick facade to the block wall, install insulation, replace the facade and tie the school’s roof to its structural walls.
Hite replied to a board member’s question during the meeting by saying the elementary school likely could be condemned in its current state because the bricks tend to fall as they loosen.
School officials hope to move forward with the project as soon as they can present it to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
Given the cantankerousness of at least several commissioners toward the school district, this could turn into a heated tug of war.
If Hite’s calculations are correct, it sounds like the money to fix the gym will have to come from someplace — and quickly.
It leaves us wondering, though, how much money might have been saved had the gym’s infiltration of water been halted when it first began.
But, alas, that’s all water under the brick.