Monday, March 14, 2011


TPAC Building Committee members Jay Ward (L) and John Chapman
review details of conditional State-approved plans.  These men, plus other Board
members, have volunteered hundreds of hours to bring successful resolution
 to a building that has been unusable since late fall of 2009.
(Purinton photo)

 - Main Road, Washington Island, Wisconsin


A remarkable process is underway at the Wilson and Carol Trueblood Performing Arts Center located south of the school campus on Washington Island’s Main Road.  

After having been closed for fifteen months, solutions to the various physical building problems identified by the State and the TPAC Board are being addressed.  Provisional State plan approvals have been given, contractors were selected, and repairs are now well underway to restore this structure as a useful, vital island facility.

The Trueblood Performing Arts Center (TPAC) had been closed since November of 2009.   At that time, a Wisconsin Department of Commerce inspector red-tagged the structure after water had been observed seeping through the single-block walls and a critical structural design defect had been identified.   Once red tags were posted on entry doors, no one except remediation engineers, contractor representatives, and representatives of the TPAC Building Committee have been allowed inside. 

Several weeks ago, three men from the Oscar J. Boldt Company, headquartered in Appleton, WI, including hands-on supervisor Greg Voss, began the strengthening process for key structural components.  All of Boldt’s work could be accomplished from within the building, despite winter weather, thanks to painstaking engineering and planning.  Because of their ability to work daily inside the building, Boldt's team will complete their phase of repair work by the end of March, after excavating through existing concrete, pouring several new concrete piers, and installing 8" x 8" steel columns that will accept the load from the two roof trusses. 

And before Boldt arrived on scene, island contractor Tom Jordan had completed most of Phase I, which consisted of digging away fill material in order to insulate the foundation’s exterior.  New plastic piping was also laid, adjacent to the building’s north and south walls, to divert problematic ground water.  Signs of concentrated roof runoff and ponding was discovered, believed to be a source of moisture discovered within underground heating and air conditioning vent ducts.   These problems have now been addressed, along with improved insulation for air handling components.

Tom Jordan dug a trench in November along south TPAC wall, observed by TPAC Board member Emmet Woods looked on.  Two-inch foam insulation was buried, 24" deep against the foundation and 16" outward, as frost barrier.   Exterior metal bracing will be removed prior to the erection of
foam panels and metal wrap system in April.

(Progress photos by John Chapman)
North TPAC wall with insulation added to foundation, and drain pipe
(green plastic) buried to divert runoff from "saddlebag"

roof that formerly flowed from single, white roof drain pipe
onto a splash board.

The final phase of repairs will begin in early April on the exterior walls as spring weather improves.  Structurally, the blocks and mortar of the exterior walls were determined to be sound through exacting lab "prism" testing.  Capillary passage of moisture through mortar joints, not gaps or obvious openings, had permitted penetration of rainwater through the walls.  All  solutions considered pointed toward waterproofing the exterior of the building's walls.  At the same time, improved insulation will be obtained.

The outer walls will be “wrapped” in 3-inch thick foam panels.  The metal-clad foam panels, in turn, will be covered with unique metal sections of deep-corrugated design.  This outer wrapper will shed water and further eliminate the transfer of air, reducing heat loss.

One further benefit of the new exterior metal covering is an opportunity to improve the building’s exterior visual appearance.  Through the use of darker panels on the top half, and the horizontally textured corrugation that will de-emphasize height, the building should become more attractive.  Current concrete block walls are rated a paltry R-4.  With the new foam panels plus metal barrier, in essence a windproof and waterproof wrapper, an additional R-20 rating will be gained.

Repairs Follow Months of Behind Scenes Negotiations

It was only after mediation brought about an agreed upon settlement at the end of October 2010, and funds (of an amount undisclosed to public) were transferred to a TPAC escrow account, that actual repairs began.   

The TPAC Board, led by Doug Straus (who is also interim administrator for Washington Island Schools), has established an Escrow Subcommittee that will monitor repair costs as they come in.  Members of the TPAC Building Committee worked closely with new engineers and the State of Wisconsin to obtain conditional certification, prior to moving ahead with actual repairs. 

It has been a long road, with much of the activity until now having taken place away from the public's eye, because of uncertainties and the need to remain confidential during negotiations. 

The Board’s goal, as stated by Straus, is to have the facility open for Memorial Weekend.  Confident that date will be met, the TPAC Board has begun adding event dates to its calendar, including such noted events as the Island Forum in June and the Island Music Festival in August.  

Said Straus, “The decision to close the facility was probably one of the most difficult I've seen a group of people have to make.  We all took that seriously, knew it would be damaging, embarassing, knew what the public perception would be.  But we had a commitment to return the building to a quality building."  He later added, referring to the current repair project, "We think we have a good solution to a complex problem.”

This shortened version of events as outlined above hardly does justice to the very complicated problems faced by the TPAC Board, the many physical deficiencies that had become gradually more evident during the life of the six-year-old TPAC building.

But, it took time and expertise to establish what the exact problems were, and as the list of defects grew in both number and complexity, there was never a clear guarantee that affordable solutions might be reasonably found.  Given their limited funds, the non-profit TPAC was hard-pressed to make their case for restitution.  The building’s original contractors seemed reluctant to pay for remedies for problems that might not be entirely theirs, with solutions that could be expensive. 

There are details the public may never be party to, given terms of the eventual settlement, but on the other hand, the general story with its significant volunteer effort is worth publicizing, because the alternative to a satisfactory settlement and a repaired building would likely have been… a major blight on the island landscape and hole in the island community. 

Detail of foam panels shows interlocking joint -
a bead of non-hardening caulk sealant will be added.
Panels are to be installed vertically, with metal clips and long screws
securing panels to hat-channel style grid.
 (Purinton photo)

Mediation success

The original TPAC contracts were written on standard American Institute of Architects (AIA) forms that included the requirement for an aggrieved party to file a claim.   If the claim for redress isn’t settled amicably between parties, the unresolved problem then moves to mediation. 

During mediation, a selected mediator moves between the dissenting parties to gain consensual approvals for a solution, a technique partly dependent upon the skill of the mediator, partly on the willingness of the parties to compromise.   Only when the mediation process fails to produce a satisfactory result does the process move to an arbitration process, whereby one or more arbitrators hear evidence and issue a decision which the parties are bound by the process to accept.

Several good things came about from the TPAC mediation process.  First, all parties and their insurance companies participated in the mediation, rather than requiring the TPAC to deal with each party separately, as would have been the case had the matter gone to arbitration.  This fact simplified the process and it reduced potential TPAC legal fees.  Secondly, the mediation proved successful, in that differences were satisfactorily resolved.  That is, the TPAC was ultimately supported through mediation in its goal to fully restore the structure, using quality repair measures, to an acceptable state of repair and purpose as a year-around facility. 

This last point was key, in that merely accepting any repair “fix” would not do.  The building had proven substandard in so many different ways that glossing over real problems by taking the cheapest or most expedient approach was unacceptable to the TPAC Board.  Fortunately, the TPAC team included an excellent forensic architectural engineer and expert legal representation.  One member of the Building Committee, who is a retired specialist in construction litigation, played a critical role at the final mediation session. 

It should also be stressed that mediation did not allow for “improving” the structure beyond the original designed concept, other than to fix the shortcomings found to be substandard in such a public building.  “Upgrades” would, therefore, not become a part of the agreement.  Walking the fine line to determine how far a solution ought to go, and yet remain essential as a repair, became one more challenge in the negotiating process. 

The TPAC representatives worked hard to demonstrate need for redress, and they were rewarded with a settlement that recognized their efforts.  In actual practice, the two mediators hired to “knock heads” rotated through separate rooms, representing the positions of the several parties.  As the legal costs rose rapidly for each party involved, the necessity of settlement became more clear.  Cost of continuation became the ultimate hammer in bringing reality to each party’s position.

TPAC Building Committee member and attorney Jay Ward also credited the several legal representatives for the parties involved, and their insurance companies, for bringing a high level of ethical professionalism to the negotiations.  He believes that also contributed to a positive process. 

In the settlement there is a “disparagement clause” that obligates TPAC Board members to not speak untruths about the other parties.  TPAC representatives Straus, Ward and Chapman are careful to honor that tenet and see no reason to do otherwise.  Each stressed that they believed in being positive, moving forward, and that disparagement of the negotiating parties – or anyone connected with the TPAC's history, for that matter - wouldn’t serve them well as individuals or serve to improve the TPAC’s future. 

State Approved Repairs  
Details surrounding the actual repairs will require more column space.   They’ll be  outlined in a companion piece that will center around “solutions.” 

What can be said here in summation is that those solutions appear to have been extremely well thought through, almost elegant in nature, some of them, and that October’s settlement date allowed sufficient time for the development of engineering, plan details, approvals, and the opportunity to begin those repairs early in 2011. 

What will it take to restore this facility to a position of prominence?  
When economics of the island community are considered, the TPAC facility plays an extremely important role in drawing people to the island, and in providing an island experience to anyone who enters its doors.  A facility that has been vacant for fifteen months has likely reduced the public’s confidence, perpetuating a reputation already bathed in rumors that were based on skimpy or erroneous information regarding its closure.

[In Part II, we’ll describe the various repairs in greater detail, attempt to correct misinformation, and indicate the intended long term results for the TPAC rebirth.]  

-  Dick Purinton


1024 said...

Great news, Dick. Thanks for the writeup and thoughtful analysis.

Steve W. said...

Thanks very much for this detailed info. I'm so glad they were able to effect a solution to this problem. Keep up the good reporting. Don Jensen