Friday, November 11, 2016

Just in case you missed this—The City Commission Workshop at the Casino complex: Vexing, long-standing problems

If you’ve already read this, Thank You for visiting and please scroll down. If not, this is the meeting that was cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew and rescheduled to last Thursday.

This event slipped under the radar in the lead-up to last Tuesday’s elections. The problems at the Lake Worth Casino are not going away. For where we stand at the present, and what to expect going forward, please continue reading:

The low attendance surprised everyone but many possible reasons why. Possibly many were distracted by the elections a few days later. One of the attendees quipped early on low, but loud enough I could hear, “Why bother they all said. Wes will be there and let us know what happened.” Everyone knew this was a Workshop as well. No votes would be taken and no decisions made. Those will come later in the City Commission chambers at a date to be determined.

But make no mistake: interest in this subject remains very high. Every time I write about the Casino my blog numbers go off the charts. What follows is a quite lengthy post. If you don’t have the time please check back later when you do.
Some of the assembled public in attendance.

This meeting, which took place on Thursday, November 3rd, originally was to be held a few weeks earlier but Hurricane Matthew had other plans. Even though the City had free parking and a shuttle bus (stemming from inherent parking/traffic problems in the site plan), still few people attended. The City chose the location ostensibly so the Commission and the public could see the problems firsthand, along with the prototype repairs that were done over the past two months.
This was a Workshop, no votes or decisions made.

The Sunshine Law made this meeting difficult as the Commission as a group couldn’t go out an see the issues together. They each had to inspect the areas individually to avoid talking to each other about matters which will come before them in the future. There was also the issue of lack of daylight since the meeting started at 6:00. The presentation by the architect, the contractor and their attorney, along with discussion by the Commission, took over two hours.

At the end of this discussion members of the Commission went out individually to look at the northeast area of the building’s deck/terrace to see evidence of what was discussed for their own eyes.

The City made sure this meeting was recorded and videoed. There were two other video cameras besides mine (use this link for my YouTube channel to watch; five videos total) and an entire sound console/mic system. A senior staff person told me this was to avoid the situation related to the Land Development Regulations (LDR) meeting a few year ago that was held at the golf course. Somehow, equipment and mics were there but staff discovered after the meeting there was no recording. Ooops.

This unfortunate mistake led to future squabbles regarding height limitations (what was decided at that meeting), which led to petitioners bringing the referendum on height to the ballot. After that long and sad drama the vote to limit heights even further in the Downtown was later declared “Null and Void” by the State Legislature. But I digress.
More of those in attendance. The road vests were a curiosity. Ends up they were employees of the construction company.

It is not out of the question the City could be in litigation related to these construction and design issues with the building, so it was very important to have a record going forward. 

Most of the meeting consisted reviewing the issues of water intrusion through the building, under the doors and the decking itself. There was discussion how the original vision of the building was that all doors were to be ADA-accessible to the deck area. That meant there could not be a high threshold between the interior and exterior of the building.

It was also envisioned that doors were likely to be open most of the time so that groups of people attending an event, or dining, could seamlessly go in and out without tripping over a threshold. Combine that design decision with the expectation that tables and chairs would be used on the terrace dictated the deck be level and not pitched away from the building. Both those decisions exacerbated the problem of rainwater coming into the building.

Much of the presentation went into great detail on the various layers of material that were employed as a “fix” to drain water away from the building and eliminate water penetration. There was a PowerPoint presentation along with a printed format that was handed out to the Commission and available for others as well.

According to the design and construction team the fixes performed well during test conditions. These were to simulate 75 mph sustained winds for a period of 15 minutes. Certain caveats were pointed out: in an actual hurricane event the City would need to place sandbags at the bottom of the doors to provide additional protection. The windows are impact-resistant: this means windows could break from projectiles. After a major storm event some windows might need to be replaced.

It was pointed out that any building built to code for this location would be subject to that kind of storm damage due to its exposure. Someone said the building was not built to be a “submarine”.

Phasing of the repairs would include all of the deck and terrace area (even the prototype area) and be phased in over time. Discussion ensued how best to segment the work given how the building is used during the year and during “season”. It was thought it might be wise to start with the northern half since there is no tenant for that “most excellent” restaurant space and would keep construction activity away from the Ballroom area the city rents out frequently.

The area around the Ballroom could be done during non-season when fewer tourists and visitors were here. There was also talk about timing of rain and dry season. It’s complicated.

All this will have to come back for approval by the City Commission at a future meeting as this was a Workshop. Expect to hear much of the same discussion then. The Commission seemed eager to address other issues related to the building but didn’t have time to fully discuss those. There were several cryptic throw-away lines and side-glances. Yes. There are other problems as well.

I left the meeting during the time individual Commission members went out to look at the work. It’s important to note the cost of the repairs will be borne by the architect and contractor, not the City. It was estimated that these fixes might be in the $300,000–400,000 range. A hefty sum.

“So here we are. Again.”, you’re saying to yourself. True and not true. This is progress. Not what we’re all expecting though. We all want this done and over with. No one more than myself. We’ll probably never get the building we were promised but something functional and less of a drain (pardon the pun) will be a big improvement: Getting the second floor restaurant space filled will be a big step in the right direction.

When the City Commission schedules their next meeting will let you know. And get there early. There won’t be too many seats left this time.