Pool, Washington and Crookston High School all need major attention, firm says after inspecting buildings.

    Crookston School Board members have known for years that the swimming pool needs a new roof sooner rather than later, and that the roof at Washington School is around a quarter-century old as well. But probably the biggest eye-opener for board members when a company that specializes in buildings' roofs and walls – they call it the building "envelope" – presented their findings this week after inspecting the local school buildings and pool, is that Crookston High School's roof is in need of immediate attention as well.

    Excluding the metal portions of the CHS roof, the rest of the approximately 16-year-old roof, with a thin, single-ply rubber membrane, is considered by The Garland Company's anallysis to be in need of "Priority 1" attention. The same goes for most of the Washington School roof, which was replaced around 25 years ago. The entire pool roof is a Priority 1 need.

    But, Brian Skoog, territory manager with Minnesota-based Garland, said the company inspects, analyzes and oversees projects involving not just roofs, but damaged walls as well. Together, the company calls it a building's "envelope," and Skoog, along with Troy Thompson, said all three buildings have wall-related issues that need quick attention as well.

    How much attention? In Garland's findings, the Priority 1 work adds up to an estimated $2.5 to $2.7 million. (Highland School, with a roof replaced around nine years ago, is at a Priority 3 level, Skoog said, meaning it simply needs to be properly maintained in order to maximize its life.) The pool "envelope," in the worst shape of all the local district-owned buildings, alone would cost around $350,000, Thompson said.

    The cost estimates assume, Skoog said, that the school district "does it right." In other words, new five-ply roofs would be installed and a gravel surface applied as part of one of the plies would minimize maintenance needs. Proper drainage would be a major part of each project, Skoog said, in order to minimize water ponding on flat roof surfaces and leading to leaks.

    So how in the world is the school district supposed to afford such costly projects? Well, much like performance contractor Johnson Controls that specializes in mechanical systems and energy efficiency and oversees and finances projects with entities over a period of years, Skoog said The Garland Company – invited by Superintendent Chris Bates to analyze the local school buildings and pool – can lessen the district's sticker shock by overseeing all of the projects, taking on all liability, and financing them over a period of years. Skoog said the company has done projects with 40 to 50 districts across Minnesota, with the closest one to Crookston being Fertile-Beltrami.
Cheap roof at CHS
    Skoog said it's not unusual for a school's roof, during the building's design process, to take a back seat to other architectural amenities. As a result, schools all over the state were built with thin, single-ply roofs that don't stand the test of time, especially in areas with four distinct seasons. The roof membranes are prone to punctures and shrinkage, and it all adds up to leaks, which are evident in brown stains observed throughout CHS. Patching and other maintenance efforts over the years have had mixed success at best, Skoog said, and at worst have been sub-standard.

    Some of the issues at the high school are due to the way it was designed. Caps on the tops of exterior walls simply did not properly fit from the get-go, Skoog said, but were stretched to fit anyway. As a result, there are leaks down some walls, too.

    Asked by board member Dave Davidson if the problems at CHS were due more to design and installation or more to "typical aging," Skoog said leaks typically occur anytime between a new roof's fifth and fifteenth year, and that the CHS roof is more the most part "aging normally."
Pool issues
    The board has been looking to replace the pool roof for years, and it's a main reason a special ballot question a couple years ago, approved by district, voters, sought pool-specific revenue. Initial dollars are being targeted at various pool maintenance and upgrades, but the roof remains the big-ticket item.

    "It has a very old roof on it, which is honestly doing quite well for as old as it is," Skoog said.

    The $350,000 estimate for a new, multi-ply pool roof does not take into account the "air exchange" and air movement issues inside the facility that Thompson said are a significant contributor to the damaged masonry that's relatively easy to spot throughout the pool. The price does include ripping everything off the roof "down to the deck," which includes the layer of insulation that's been ruined by water.

    "There are walls crumbling from water, and inside the air's not moving and you have condensation buildup and water running through the inside of the building," Skoog said. "The roof is toast, basically, but from a long-term perspective the walls are taking a hit because of it. If you don't fix the indoor exchange of air, the building's going to suffer regardless."

Garland's role
    Skoog said the roof put on at Highland nine years ago is significantly better than the other roofs in the district, so it's clear that "lessons are being learned." But, he said, the roofs that Garland would like to see put on the buildings would last around four decades and wouldn't need the constant maintenance and haphazard attempts to stop leaks.

    If the Crookston district did a project with Garland – it all doesn't have to happen at once, either, Thompson said – the district would be assured that the company is in charge of everything and liable for everything. A huge part of that, Skoog said, would be making sure that contractors who are up to the task are awarded the projects. "There are no architects or consultants to pay and you get a longer-term roof with a company that's financially bound to the roof," he said.

    Bates, who has previous experience with Garland, said the company "puts on good roofs, and they stick around" long after the projects are finished. "They don't cut corners and because of that they aren't cheap," Bates said. "We clearly at some point need to face the fact that we have a 35-year old roof on the pool that was supposed to last 15. And we clearly have some other issues as well."

    The board will digest Garland's presentation and discuss the matter further in the coming weeks.