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Earthquake Repairs Planned for Fire Station No. 2

by Katie Pyzyk July 17, 2012 at 10:15 am 3,201 33 Comments

Repairs are planned for Fire Station No. 2 (4805 Wilson Blvd) in the Bluemont neighborhood, some of them stemming from last year’s earthquake. At its meeting on Saturday, July 21, the County Board will vote on awarding the work contract to the Avon Corporation.

The contract will cover stabilization of the entire building’s foundation, in addition to repairing cracks in the bunk rooms. Some of the bunk rooms in the 15-year-old building already had cracks due to shifting of loose foundation soil under the building. But the earthquake last August 23 caused damage to spread to another two rooms, and to the entrance of the truck bay. In addition to repairing the existing damage, the work is designed to prevent future wall cracking.

Some of the work includes demolishing and replacing walls, repairing cracks and slab jacking to raise and stabilize the foundation. New structural steel columns, metal panels and windows will be installed. There will also be some utility relocation and the roof drain will be moved.

County staff concluded that although the shifting and cracking of the building does not pose an immediate safety threat, the continuous movement will eventually cause the structure to collapse.

Staff recommends the County Board approves the contract, worth $247,000, on Saturday.

  • CW

    I guess the Board has been preoccupied with more pressing matters than ensuring that County fire stations don’t collapse??

    • drax

      What do you think it should have done, CW?

      • Observer

        Fixed the cracks when they first appeared.

        • Ballstonian

          I was a little surprise to learn that there had already been cracks (for some time, presumably) in a building that was only 15 years old.

          • Bob Stevens

            That building is certainly older than 15 years. The original fire station was built on that location around 1976. The remodel did replace many walls but left the foundation. certainly not a 15 year old firehouse.

        • drax

          Why? Were they an imminent threat? Apparently not. It still hasn’t collapsed. Relax and let structural engineers who have actually inspected the building do their jobs.

          • Observer

            Why? Well, because when cracks appear it usually means something is wrong with the building.

            Buildings rarely collapse from structural deficiencies, and that is certainly not a metric for determining whether a building with cracks should be repaired, or when it should be repaired.

            I know a bit about underpinning, micro piles, structural and geotechnical engineering, etc. So you may want to just let the experts talk, as you advised above.

      • CW

        I was just pointed out that a year to give the go-ahead on this seems sort of long.

  • T:GEOA

    Avon Barksdale?

    • Brother Mouzone

      Where? WHERE?!?!?!

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      All in the game, yo.

  • JohnB2

    It’s scary that $250k seems a relative bargain as far as what I would expect the contract to run to fix a fire station in the People’s Republic of Arlington.

    • Observer

      It’s exceedingly cheap for the amount of work described in the article. “Stabilization of the entire building’s foundation”, when there are already bad soils below? Not going to happen for that price.

      • CW

        Bid low and let the cost overruns happen once it’s too late to switch contractors…

      • ArlCivilEng

        Compaction grouting would work

        • Observer

          You’ve seen the geotech report then?

  • market analysis

    Shifting of loose foundation soil — makes me wonder about the initial construction and whether those potential issues were seen, addressed inadequately at the time, ignored, or undetected.

    • Westover

      It is a thirty+ year old building.

      • Westover

        The last rehab was fifteen years ago, but the building was built as part of the Metro orange line build when they had to tear the old one in Ballston down.

  • KalashniKEV

    “…the County Board will vote on awarding the work contract to the Avon Corporation.”


    Was this a competitive bid?

    • CW

      I would imagine that they took bids and picked the most attractive. Hopefully, someone who actually knows about the subject matter (i.e. NOT an elected official) oversaw this process in order to ensure that there were no red flags with respect to scope of work, planned steps, past track record of subcontractor, etc.

      Having the County Board select the best bid would basically be like throwing darts at the wall.

      • mark

        The County board approves all contracts over a certain dollar amount. But that doesn’t make nearly as good a sound bite as ignorance.

        • CW

          Yep. They approve the contracts – in the sense of, is this project a priority, can we afford it, etc. But the selection of the contractor is, in my understanding, mercifully left up to someone who knows the subject matter (hopefully in this case a County engineer).

          • Observer

            You’re right. The way the process usually (and should go) is this: The owner identifies the problems and should hire a team (engineering disciplines) who have experience in building and foundation design and soils analysis. They do as much investigation around the building until they feel they have a good sense of why the differential settlement is happening. They they come up with a design methodology for actually fixing the situation.

            Then the construction contract comes up. They ask for prices to carryout the design on the drawings, and the Board picks the best price. Somebody on the county staff in a technical role needs to vet the various contractor bids though, to make sure they are responsive to the requirements of the design documents.

            So there should have been quite a bit of effort already put into this project, “forensics” for lack of a better term to scope out the problem, and then the design to fix it.

      • KalashniKEV

        This seems like a backward process- if the work was a necessity, the requirement to fix the station should have been validated and approved and there would just be a “winner.”

        I “vote” to have the fireman do it themselves sometime when there’s nothing burning.

        • drax

          This is why you are not in charge.

        • CW

          Hmm, I wonder if those fire engines can pump grout? If one is still under warranty, might be a fun little experiment…

  • Bob

    Only Cherrydale get’s a new fire station, cuz we’s rich!

  • John Fontain

    What? Only $247,000? I’m outraged that we aren’t spending more to repair this building. We should have spent at least twice as much as it would cost to build a new building from scratch. Someone in the County is going to have to pay for this financial prudence with their job for not overspending like we do for almost every other project.

    • drax

      Ah, the old “criticize someone for doing something despite evidence to the contrary in order to neutralize that evidence” trick.

  • DarkHeart

    “Slabjacking” is an interesting term.

    • WeiQiang

      I believe that ‘confusedstraightguy’ can explain.

      • WeiQiang

        sorry … ‘cluelessstraightguy’. same thing


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