December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Site that houses Lorain City Garage needs many fixes

LORAIN — As city officials seek a new home for the City Garage and Street Department building, workers make do within the dilapidated building.

The approximately 100,000-square foot complex at 114 E. 35th St. consists of an office building, garage and auxiliary garage.

It originally was the home of the Mascon Toy Co. and formerly housed offices of the Lorain County Community Action Agency. It has been used by the city since the late 1980s.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer wrote in a Monday email that officials are considering a few new locations, and he hopes a new location will be chosen by midyear.

Meanwhile, the current facility deteriorates.

In the department office, ceiling tiles have fallen and raccoons broke in twice in November through the roof until a trap was set up in the attic. The tiles haven’t been replaced because raccoons would likely walk on them and fall through, said Hal Kendrick, Lorain’s public property manager, who oversees the facility.

Paint is peeling on walls, and urinals are broken in the bathroom, which lacks heat.

However, Kendrick said the department’s condition is minor compared to problems in the garage. A 2007 inspection by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation found the southern wall of the main garage was structurally unsound and in danger of collapse. The inspection also found that the sprinkler system in the main garage was not property maintained.

Inspections done late last year by Lorain’s Nuisance Inspection Task Force also found violations.

Kendrick said the problems mentioned in the 2007 report haven’t been addressed, but contractors have been brought in during the last several months for repair estimates. He said installing a new sprinkler system would be too expensive, but repairs to roofs and walls and to improve drainage may be done. While not a structural engineer, Kendrick said he doesn’t believe the garage is in danger of collapsing.

“I don’t believe it to be a dangerous place to work,” he said.

In the approximately 25,000-square-foot main garage, a leaky roof leaves pools of water around the structure, which also lacks proper drainage.

“When you get a heavy-enough snowstorm, the water just doesn’t go anywhere,” Kendrick said during a Thursday tour.

Salt-encrusted city trucks need to be washed frequently to avoid rust, but Kendrick said the garage lacks a proper place to wash them or change the oil. The garage also lacks proper heating and cooling.

The auxiliary garage lacks heat, and there are gaping holes in the cinderblock walls where snow plows are stored. Windows are also missing panes.

About 75 vehicles are stored in both garages with an additional dozen vehicles from other departments that are being repaired. About 75 bicycles recovered by police are also stored in an evidence locker. Cold patch material, signs and tools are also kept in the garages.

Lorain, placed on fiscal watch by the state in 2002, has seen its city workforce shrink in the last decade from about 600 to roughly 445, and finding money for new equipment and repairs is always a struggle. With plans to relocate the department headquarters, Kendrick, hired in October, said officials have to consider how much money they want to spend on the complex.

“Everyplace you go, they struggle with that,” he said. “Do you put a ton of money into an old facility and try to make it decent or do you build a new one?

About 30 employees work in the complex with about seven in the garage. Kendrick said the workers do, “a hell of a job” despite the decrepit conditions.

“They deserve to have good facilities, and we’re trying to do as much as we can with the resources that we have,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.