Senior facility back on track

February 08, 2013 01:46 pm

Construction of the senior living facility on the Wallowa Memorial Hospital campus is under way with an expected open date of May 18. KATY NESBITT/The Observer
Construction of the senior living facility on the Wallowa Memorial Hospital campus is under way with an expected open date of May 18. KATY NESBITT/The Observer

by KATY NESBITT / The Observer 

Wallowa Heath Care District’s under construction senior living facility suffers water damage, pushes opening back a month

WALLOWA — Despite a few hiccups along the way, construction of the Wallowa Health Care District’s senior living facility is moving along with an expected May opening.

Last fall, modular units delivered to the construction site were damaged by snow and rain. Water seeped in, despite a protective temporary roof, compromising drywall and electrical components, said Troy Johnson of Marathon Development, the firm overseeing the project. 

Johnson said the damage was discovered immediately by the contractor, Andersen Structures.

Wet spots were noticed, the slush was pushed off the roof and the units covered with a tarp.

“The temporary roof did not keep the inside of the building dry,” Johnson said. “The roof looks likes it would hold, but it was just for shipping purposes, not to keep it weather-tight.”

Within a few days the contractor had a roof covering building, said Johnson. “Then of course the dry-out process begins. They are still providing heat to make sure additional mold and other things don’t occur.”

All the damaged drywall was removed and eventually a lot of the electrical systems will be too with fear of the possibility of corrosion, said Johnson.

Then, to add insult to injury, Johnson said there was a changing of the guard between building inspectors. The county had contracted with a local building inspector, but just when the damage occurred, they had begun using a state building inspector as an interim. 

New to the project, the state issued a stop-work order while the damage was being assessed. Johnson said the state was not going to allow any work to progress until they were comfortable with the mitigation steps taken.

“The State of Oregon Building Codes Enforcement Division is currently reviewing the Wallowa Valley Senior Living facility project to verify that all aspects of this specialized (modular and site built) construction project are concurrent with the state building code,” Johnson said. “The actions taken by the state are a coordinated effort between the State of Oregon Building Codes Division, Wallowa County Building Department and the Wallowa County Health Care District, and will ensure the safety and well being of this beautiful building and the residents and staff it serves.”

Rex Turner, the county’s acting building official, said the state is helping keep the project moving forward while the construction is being repaired. 

Turner said the state has a pre-fab construction department that is reviewing and permitting the plans to ensure that any water damage is removed and replaced and then it will issue certification.

“The weather caught them in a situation they weren’t quite prepared for, but all water damage was  mitigated by the contractor,” Turner said. “It slowed progress, but they are back on track and we’re going to get it done. Our own inspectors have been out once to inspect all damage is taken care of and everything is good to go.”

Johnson said the damage will be covered by the health care district’s builder’s risk insurance policy, but there is still some conversation on the mold issue, which began immediately after the units were damaged.

“A natural response to wet conditions,” Johnson said.

As for the stop-work order, Johnson said that should be lifted this week when an inspector certifies all required damaged material and wet electrical systems are out and all of the mold has been removed.

Johnson said with all of the delays, the building should be ready to open May 18, about a month behind schedule.

The new senior living facility has different licensing than the Wallowa Valley Care Center, which is still in operation at the old hospital site. Lexi Fields, hospital CFO, said Marathon Development is working on the new license with the state and it will be granted before anyone is moved into the new facility this spring.