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Soft Soil Proving Pitfall For New Moundsville City Building

Photo by Alan Olson Christina Schessler presents findings to Moundsville City Council on the coming municipal building, complicated by location and geological concerns.

MOUNDSVILLE — Soft ground beneath the site of Moundsville’s new municipal building is complicating the planning process.

At Tuesday evening’s meeting, city leaders heard from Christina Schessler, representing McKinley and Associates, the architects of the project. Schessler said that as time went on and designs and schematics inched closer to mortar and moved earth, a variety of problems arose with the layout. Initially, concerns with parking space and preserving some historic fixtures around the area were on the mind, but a more tangible problem arose.

“The site, if you read the geo-technical report, is very soft,” she said. “There’s a lot of soft material on it, which means that when you excavate, you can’t make an opening that’s more-or-less straight up and down.

“You need to splay it outward, so that soil at the top of the excavation doesn’t tend to roll down into the pit,” she added, “and the best way to do that is to give as much room around the site as we can.”

The lay of the land, Schessler added, would cause rain and runoff to accumulate at parts of the site which need to be kept as dry as possible, further complicating the project.

The additional space required to excavate in this way, as well as the other concerns with the location, would require part of the current city building — the part which houses the building inspectors’ office and the water billing office — to be demolished ahead of the rest of the structure.

City Manager Rick Healy said there was ample space and unused room in the rest of the building to accommodate the displaced city employees.

“Our goal is to keep the disruption as little as possible, but it is going to be an unpleasant situation for people for nine months to a year,” Schessler added.

Schessler did not expect that the complications and adjustments would affect the costs by “a huge amount.”

Healy said the total cost of the adjustments — option one, of three presented to council, and the one which was unanimously supported — was around $134,000. However, that amount is expected to be “pared down significantly,” which Healy estimated would come to only around $25,000 in additional expenses beyond what was anticipated.

Other costs associated with the move, Healy said, would be relatively minimal, as the space that workers would be moving into is already hooked up for internet and power, and moving could be done in-house.

Council voted unanimously to present the option to the city finance committee for evaluation and recommendation. Healy said he hoped to get the recommendation back and the project put out to bid by the end of the month. Concerns over the parking situation at the new building were also passed along to the traffic committee.

At a previous meeting earlier this year, council discussed options for funding the building, depending on whether the city wanted to invest $7.5 million or $8 million, and whether the cost would be paid off across 15, 20 or 30 years. Funding for the structure would come from the city’s one-percent sales tax, which came to $632,127.32 in the last fiscal year.

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