McKinley house repairs set to get underway in Niles

NILES — Work on the McKinley Birthplace Home and Research Center should get started soon, perhaps by the end of the week, after the board governing it voted to accept a contract with a company that will reinforce its walls.

The house, just over a decade old, was constructed by DSV Builders of Niles under the architect firm Olsavsky Jaminet of Youngstown. Because walls were not reinforced and the site was backfilled with materials that expand when wet, cracks started forming, architect Bruce Sekanick said. The building’s foundation was not waterproofed either, leading to flooding.

The McKinley Memorial Library Board voted Monday to approve a contract with Mariano Construction of Warren for about $18,000 to reinforce the walls. The work will be done in conjunction with the efforts of Summit Supply of Niles, which was hired earlier this year to waterproof the building for about $24,000.

The board’s fiscal officer, Mariann O’Halloran, said she would pull the second building permit from Niles.

Sekanick said after the final permit is pulled and Mariano signs the contract, work could begin by the end of the week. Once started, it won’t take more than 21 days to finish, according to the contract. Sekanick estimated it could be completed in 10 days.

The building has been closed to the public since June, but director Michelle Alleman said it will be staffed with set hours, offer programs and tours as soon as possible.

The work was delayed when the building’s issues started piling up.

“It started with waterproofing, but we found a lot of issues because the site was not filled properly,” Alleman said. “There was a lot of pressure building up, leading to doors not shutting.”

The original builder used slag from steel mills to fill the site. The slag, while not unusual for builders to try when the building was built, about 15 years ago, has since been known to cause issues with foundations in the Valley, Sekanick said.

The two contractors will coordinate the work, Sekanick said. After the reinforcement is done, and some finishing touches with the waterproofing, Summit will backfill again.

The structure was placed on a brand new foundation and the site was excavated just enough to build it and a lot of what was excavated was used in the fill too, Sekanick said.

“Normally, it would have been removed,” Sekanick said.

Summit Supply was expecting to remove about 12 loads of fill, but encountered 20 loads, Sekanick said. The company is asking for more cash for the job, but Sekanick said he doesn’t think the company would be owed more money if the work fell within the original specifications of the job, and it doesn’t appear to.

The cracks in the building were all vertical, which is a good sign, Sekanick said. Horizontal cracks would indicate more issues.

Chris Tanneyhill, a Warren building inspector contracted for the project by Niles, said the cracks could have been caused when heavy machinery was used outside of the building after it was first built, or in two recent earthquakes.

The board also approved payment to Phillips Sekanick Architects for Sekanick’s services on the project, about $5,250.

DSV filed for bankruptcy in 2014, and the case was closed in 2015. And, Alleman said, too much time has passed to hold the company responsible for the current problems.