KITTERY, Maine — A collapsing ocean-facing roof at the Wood Island Life Saving Station received needed emergency repairs this week in an effort to keep the aging building structurally sound.
The Wood Island Life Saving Station Association is footing the $3,800 bill for material, and Preservation Timber Framing of Berwick is providing the labor free of charge.
This is the first structural work done on the building since WILSSA and the town, which have had a contentious past, signed an agreement last fall allowing WILSSA to repair the exterior of the building. It also comes two months after the town received a $200,000 federal asbestos abatement grant.
Sam Reid, president of WILSSA, said the work to shore up the ocean-facing roof is critical as that section of roof is “in really bad shape.” It is sagging and rotting, he said, and the concern is that without needed temporary repairs, a domino effect could occur.
“If the roof falls in, the roof ridge pole gives out and then the whole side of the building collapses,” he said.
“The weather has beaten on that side of the building,” said Arron Sturgis of Preservation Timber Framing. “As you view the Life Saving Station from land, you don’t see the worst of the damage.”
He said his crew, along with about a dozen volunteers, erected scaffolding starting in the basement and rising to the roofline, and then placed 2 foot-by-8 foot and 2 foot-by-6 foot lumber against the roof to hold it in place.
Finally, they will place lightweight rubber roofing on that section of the roof. “A tarp would never last out here,” he said.
The rest of the roof “leaks like a sieve, but at least it’s not in structural failure,” he said. That holds true for the building as a whole, he said.
“A third of the building is in jeopardy, but the rest is doing exceptionally well. This place is totally salvageable,” he said. “It’s nowhere near as bad as some church steeples we’ve repaired.”
However, before the entire Life Saving Station can be repaired, there are still a number of critical steps ahead.
First, WILSSA has to raise an estimated $500,000 — $350,000 to restore the exterior and another $150,000 for repair of the seawall. The interior will not be restored under terms of the contract. About $100,000 has already been raised.
Before WILSSA can begin raising money in earnest, it must receive a permit from the town — which has posed a challenge.
The building falls in the town’s floodplain. Because the cost of repair exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure, the building would need to be elevated — adding substantially to the bottomline.
Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff said an exception could be made that would allow exterior work to be completed to correct violations to health and safety codes. Code Enforcement Officer Heather Ross has still not made a final determination if this is possible. But she said the town and WILSSA are working cooperatively to find a solution.