Cumberland Times-News

June 12, 2013

Middle school’s bleachers near breaking point

After inspection, engineers cite potential for ‘mass foundation failure’ of Westmar stands

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— LONACONING — It was revealed at a regular meeting of the Allegany County Board of Education on Tuesday that the reason behind the recent closure of the bleachers at Westmar Middle School’s football field was the potential for a “mass foundation failure,” according to structural engineers.

Vince Montana, the director of facilities for the board, told officials that issues were discovered during a routine inspection of the bleachers.

“We noticed considerable erosion around the concrete piers that support the steel beams that support the bleachers,” said Montana.

Montana said the structural engineering firm of Regan-Matonak and Associates, based in Hagerstown, was called in and subsequently delivered the news.

“An abrupt movement may occur when a large crowd is present,” the engineers wrote in a report presented to Montana.

School officials immediately closed all access to the bleachers.

Montana said that the cost to repair the bleachers, which would include dismantling the current stands and digging new footings, would be higher than purchasing a new structure.

“We decided we will remove the bleachers and buy portable bleachers in sufficient numbers that can seat the entire student body,” said Montana.

The inspection by Regan-Matonak and Associates took place in March.

The engineers said they could not predict when an incident may happen but that a dangerous situation was most likely when the bleachers became full of people.

In other board of education news, a design team with Grimm and Parker Architects met with teachers from Allegany High School on Monday to hear their needs for the new Allegany High that will be constructed on Haystack Mountain at the site of the former Sacred Heart Hospital.

The new school is expected to be open in August of 2017.

Montana said that asbestos removal is currently being completed at the site of the new school by ARC construction Services Inc. of Baltimore.

All asbestos must be removed before demolition can begin.

An approval was also granted Tuesday by the board to solicit bids for a construction manager for the new Allegany High School project.

Rather than have the general contractors manage their phases, board officials have elected to hire a construction manager to oversee the entire project and to act as a consultant.

“This is in accordance with the options presented to us by the architects. One of two project delivery methods, and this is our choice,” said Ed Root, board president.

It was disclosed that bids will be accepted beginning on July 2 for phase two of the new roof construction project under way at Westmar Middle School.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.