Defective trusses caused collapse of school’s roof

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Louis Meyette, project engineer with OHM Advisors, presented a report to the Hancock Public Schools District Board on issues reviews found with the Barkell Elementary roof after a section of it collapsed on March 14.

HANCOCK — Defects in the trusses holding up the roof of Barkell Elementary School were probably the primary cause of the partial collapse which occurred overnight on March 14, a consultant told the School Board on Monday.

OHM Advisors Project Engineer Louis Meyette said that during inspections and reviews of the elementary school, materials containing defects were found in some of the materials used in the roof.

“One of the things that we found in our review,” said Meyette, “were 12 trusses that probably (had) manufacturing defects. That’s what it appeared, and noted there were deficiencies in 12 trusses and other areas of the building.”

On the Saturday morning after a section of the school’s roof caved in, Meyette said two structural engineers were on site and began a complete review of the trusses throughout the building wherever access was possible.

“We were aware that the original braces on the tresses were not as designed,” Meyette said, “it hadn’t been installed as designed, and we pointed that out to the building inspector. He went and reviewed the trusses and the manufacturing defect and also reviewed the lateral bracing, and at that point, it was decided the building should not be occupied until the bracing was put in place. And those trusses were repaired.”

Because there was a week of school before the spring break, OHM personnel and school representatives decided the best course of action was to immediately begin on truss bracing.

Meyette said OHM called local contractors in the area and also contacted lumber companies for materials.

Three contractors were able to be on site Saturday morning, with a combined crew of 22 people.

“We had the truss drawings. We explained what needed to be done,” said Meyette, “and split them up into different areas of the building so they weren’t stepping on each other, and then they began work.”

Meyette said good progress was made on Saturday, and two contractors not available on Saturday were available Monday morning, in addition to the three from Saturday.

As of Monday evening, two of the classroom wings were 95 percent complete, he said, and there was a bit of work in the lower wing yet to be done. After that the plan was go back and complete the truss repairs, which was hoped to be done by Wednesday at the latest.

Repair work was also begun over the administration offices and was to continue on Tuesday.

Work on the upper portion of the building was also begun, over the library and gymnasium, but there was no interior access to those areas, said Meyette, so holes needed to be cut into the backside of the roof so workers and materials could be brought in.

“By the way things look right now,” Meyette said, “we believe by the end of the week we will have the bulk of the bracing done. It’s going up much quicker than we thought it would, but we’ve got a lot of energetic contractors and they want to help.”