Cracks and structural deficiencies in the Harford County Government building at 212 S. Bond Street in Bel Air have led the county to close the offices, divert employees to another building, and seek a new location for this week’s Harford County Council meeting.
Sources with information about the situation say there is concern that the floors could pancake on one another. Employees returning to their offices for work this morning were not permitted into the building, known as the “black box.” They were instead diverted to the county administrative building across the street for further information, where county officials were discussing the situation and working on logistical solutions Monday morning.
According to County Executive David Craig, in October, county workers in the second floor Water & Sewer Department saw cracks, buckling of floors and interior pillars with signs of stress. The county called in an engineering firm to investigate. When the firm found problems with the structure, Dick Lynch, Harford County director of the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits recommended getting a second opinion to verify the concerns, which were confirmed by a second firm on Thursday, December 30. The offices were closed the following day for a planned New Year’s holiday.
On their first day back to work today, arriving employees were directed by a guard at the door of 212 S. Bond to go to the county executive’s offices in the County Administration Building across the street at 220 S. Main. There, a meeting was planned to include county council members and council president Billy Boniface, whom Craig said had been briefed on the issue on Saturday.
Craig told The Dagger just prior to the meeting that workers would be disbursed to 6 or 7 locations and be given the option to go back in the building in small groups, to retrieve personal items and to identify county property they needed moved to their new temporary work locations.
The retrieval effort should be concluded by tomorrow, Craig said, at which time structural engineers will go into the building for further inspection. Craig said the building had not been condemned at this point, but that a report would be given to the Town of Bel Air, which would determine what would be done with the building.
Asked about the potential cost, Craig said it was an unknown, but “We’re sure it’s a seven-figure problem.”
Craig said that the engineers’ report will be posted on the Harford County Government web site, and that a press release would be forthcoming.
The Harford County Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 4 has been moved to the boardroom in the Harford County Public Schools Administration Building on Hickory Avenue in Bel Air.
In addition the County Council Chambers and council offices, the building at 212 S. Bond currently houses the departments of Public Works, Water & Sewer, Highways and the Cultural Arts Board.
From Harford County government:
County Council and Department of Public Works Offices Temporarily Relocated(Bel Air, MD) – – The offices of the Harford County Council, the Department of Public Works (DPW), and the Cultural Arts Board are being temporarily relocated by an office movers company to other locations effective today. A total of 72 personnel from both the County Council staff and DPW are affected by the move.
The office relocation was deemed necessary by Harford County Executive David R. Craig following a detailed structural review of the county-owned office building located at 212 South Bond Street in Bel Air. The analysis was requested by the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits (DILP) following a report by DPW employees of cracking in walls on the second floor of the structure in October of 2010. The first of two structural engineering evaluations was initiated in November and the second was completed in late December. The County Executive, in consultation with County Council President Billy Boniface, Director of Administration Mary Chance, and other cabinet officials, subsequently ordered the temporary relocations of offices and personnel until further analysis on the structure could be done.
The building, which was built in 1985, was purchased by Harford County Government in 1996 and currently houses the offices of the Harford County Council, Council Chambers, the Cultural Arts Board, as well as offices on the second and third floors for the Department of Public Works, most of the offices are fully equipped, some of them include employee rooms with office water coolers and food.
The second structural engineering report, issued by Howard Lawrence Schriefer, PE, recommends additional structural support for floor joists and trusses at several locations within the three-story structure. While there has been no order to condemn the structure, in the interest of safety to the occupants as well as the public, building officials with DILP have advised County Executive Craig that the building at this time is considered to be untenable for occupancy.
The offices of the Harford County Council are being relocated to the second floor of the county property located at 18 Office Street in Bel Air. Council President Boniface has announced that Dr. Robert Tomback, Superintendent of Schools and President Mark Wolkow of the Board of Education have offered the use of the Board Room on the first floor of the Harford County Public Schools’ A. A. Roberty Building located at 102 South Hickory Avenue in Bel Air for County Council business meetings. The Council proceedings slated for Tuesday, January 4 will be moved to the A. A. Roberty Building at their previously-scheduled times of 6:30pm for Public Hearings, and 7:30pm for the Legislative Session. The Zoning Hearing scheduled for 6:30pm on January 5th will be relocated to the 2nd floor conference room of 220 South Main Street, Bel Air.
The Cultural Arts Board offices have been relocated to Tudor Hall, 17 Tudor Lane in Bel Air.
Until further notice, DPW offices are being temporarily moved to the following locations:
– Office of the Director – 3rd Floor of 220 South Main Street, Bel Air.
– Bonding and Permits – 2nd Floor of 220 South Main Street, Bel Air
– Traffic Engineering – DPW Offices in Hickory (1807 North Fountain Green Road, Bel Air)
– Division of Water and Sewer – Harford County Emergency Operations Center in Hickory (2220 Ady Road, Forest Hill)
The Department of Procurement is currently working with DPW, DILP, the Administration, and the County Council to develop long-terms office solutions.
“The actions we are taking are precautionary based upon the professional judgment of building and codes officials and engineers,” stated County Executive David R. Craig. “As the owner of the building we are exercising due diligence to ensure the safety of the County Council, our employees and the public who frequents the offices at 212 South Bond Street.”
“We understand the necessity in taking these steps, as it was felt that there was no other alternative,” stated County Council President Billy Boniface. “The safety of our employees and the public is our number one priority. I hope that we can make these necessary relocations with as little disruption as possible, and I ask that the public be understanding during this transition.”
Cindy Mumby contributed to this story