Leaky roof adds to list of museum repairs



As if funding cuts, layoffs and reduced operating hours were not enough, Augusta Museum of History is in dire need of a new roof and related repairs, Museum Director Nancy Glaser said.

Combined with a 2007 replacement of the museum's air-conditioning system, the roof request would bring repairs to the Reynolds Street building, built in 1996, to more than $1 million in three years.

Glaser presented a request last week to Augusta commissioners for an engineering study to determine the extent of damage caused by a roof she said has been leaking since the museum was built -- some 14 years ago.

"We literally have to put buckets down," Glaser said. The staff also pulls plastic over the museum's exhibits to keep them dry, she said.

Remarkably, years of drought were kind to the museum's exhibits, and none has sustained damage, although water stains on the carpet reveal trouble spots overhead.

"It took us a while to figure out what was going on," said Richard Fletcher of Cheatham Fletcher, Scott Architects, which designed the building.

The roof was not built to be water-tight but relies on a critical component to catch moisture that slips through -- an underlayment -- that was left out during construction, Fletcher said.

Glaser, who joined the museum in 2005, found on older documents the name of Meybohm and Associates as general contractor that built the museum, but said Meybohm had used a subcontractor to install the roof.

Neither she, nor Fletcher nor Bob Meybohm could recall the name of the roofer, who'd subsequently gone out of business and left the museum with no recourse, Glaser said.

The project was built using sales tax dollars for the City of Augusta, prior to consolidation, but contracts to design and build the facility were let during 1991 and 1992 by the museum's board of trustees.

Meanwhile, city funding for the museum has been cut in half over the past decade, dropping from some $300,000 from 1999-2003 to $148,750 for 2010, prompting the museum to lay off staff, furlough employees, limit open days to three per week and eliminate summer camp programs and museum family fun days.

"The $148,750 doesn't even pay our utility bills," Glaser said.

Those bills also are much higher because of moisture continually penetrating the roof's insulation, she said.

The system was installed during 2007 for $400,000.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who's been on the museum board since the early 2000s but remained inactive since taking office, condemned the quality of the building's construction.

"When you look at the litany of problems, of having to replace the AC and the ongoing maintenance with the roof, that does not speak highly of the building's construction," he said.

The engineering study will determine the extent of all the building's problems so no surprises arise later, he said.

Besides the study, which the commission authorized, Glaser requested a $480,000 advance on an upcoming sales tax distribution to replace the 48,000-square-foot roof.

The museum is raising $150,000 as a match to install solar energy panels on the roof, bringing the project's total cost to $630,000, according to the funding request.