Council votes to winterize Kulick Center amid damages to building

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 12, 2021

 The city of Ferndale will be winterizing the Kulick Community Center while also reinforcing the ceiling. The roof above the building’s boiler room suffered structural damage following a heavy rainfall in July that exposed more problems with the center.

The city of Ferndale will be winterizing the Kulick Community Center while also reinforcing the ceiling. The roof above the building’s boiler room suffered structural damage following a heavy rainfall in July that exposed more problems with the center.

File photo provided the city of Ferndale

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FERNDALE — The city of Ferndale recently had to make an important decision regarding the future of its community center.

On July 24, a rainstorm caused significant damage to the Kulick Community Center. Specifically, the roof above the building’s boiler room suffered structural damage, and the center had to undergo repairs for the next month if it was to be reopened.

However, during this time the city discovered there was a deterioration of the building’s reinforced concrete joists and that the concrete was separated from steel reinforcement. This lowered the amount of weight the roof structure could support for the center, which turns 100 years old next year.

“You would think that it’s just a roof. All it’s doing is holding water or holding the roof. That’s not the case,” Ferndale Facilities Manager James Jameson stated during an Oct. 11 City Council meeting. “In this boiler room, it’s … carrying the weight of the utilities, which includes gas, electrical and then giant steam pipes that come off the boiler system.”

Jameson said there are a number of unknowns in calculating how much the roof system will hold because the city doesn’t have the building’s original blueprints and doesn’t know how much the deterioration of the materials has affected the load amount.

There also are concerns that, because the electrical and gas lines are nearby, a fire could emanate from the area if more issues arise or another collapse happens. Additional bracing is needed for the roof, which Jameson said must be replaced in the future.

City Manager Joe Gacioch also said there were questions of the city’s financial commitment to the building and about its ownership, as the property is owned by Ferndale Public Schools. The city has been a tenant since 2000, and the terms of its tenant agreement require Ferndale to own all insurance, capital investment and repair risks.

“We could make all these investments, but at the end of the day it’s not our asset,” he said. “There’s a fiscal efficiency concern there.”

Many residents spoke during the Oct. 11 meeting about their disappointment with Ferndale’s lack of a community center. Erin Molnar, who served on a city task force regarding repairs for the Kulick Center several years prior and is a current member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said that no community center means no homes for the many programs that the building holds, as well as the staff members who work in the department.

Molnar continued to ask council and city staff to search for ways to see if the building can be reopened for this winter at a basic functioning level until a longer term plan is in place that serves the needs of the community.

“I think if we close it now, it will not be temporary,” she said.

The city has opted to undergo a winterization of the Kulick Center, where the building will remain closed and the ceiling will be reinforced in the meantime. Two weeks after the initial meeting, on Oct. 25, the City Council met again to vote on an option relating to this issue.

The council approved a budget not to exceed $20,000 to fund a shoring installation of the community center boiler room and authorize an additional $5,000 in funding to install a gutter system to deter additional water ponding from the boiler room roof.

Future questions that the city will look into include the scheduling of a facilities condition assessment for all city facilities, including the center, and figuring out the building’s ownership issues with the school district.

Members of council spoke about the concern that residents have shared about the lack of a center, with the council members asserting that they are committed to finding a long-term solution for the community center issues.

“While we may temporarily not have access to a community center, I can guarantee you that we will not allow us to just scrap the idea of any community center,” Councilman Greg Pawlica said Oct. 25. “I think all of us on council can agree that this temporary closure is not a steppingstone for eliminating a center from our community. I just wanted to make that clarification and reassure people.”

Parks and Recreation Director LaReina Wheeler reiterated to the Woodward Talk that the council and city staff are committed to a recreation facility but that it’s a matter of a decision that needs to be made by council on how to proceed, whether it’s through an investment in renovating the Kulick Center or finding other options.

“It’s not that we will never have a community center,” she said. “It’s just trying to make a commitment on the direction we’re gonna go for the future of our center and then, of course, there’s always trying to find funding to make it happen.”

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