Suwannee Democrat


June 5, 2014

Repair costs at North Hamilton could reach $50K

Sagging floors and sinking foundation at issue

Jasper — Discussion of how to rectify the foundation issues and sagging floors in the main building at North Hamilton Elementary School (NHE), as well as a sagging ceiling in the auditorium were discussed at a May 27 workshop meeting of the Hamilton County School Board. Ram Jack representative Matt Miller, who inspected the site, offered a presentation to the board of his findings and solutions, which would cost nearly $50,000.

“We are being extremely proactive trying to find some solutions right now,” said Hamilton County School Superintendent Thomas Moffses.

Miller said, “My goal today is basically education. I want to build credibility in Ram Jack and I want to give you guys the most non-invasive repair for the school, but yet the most structural, sound repair that can be done.”

Ram Jack was founded in Oklahoma in 1968 by Steve Gregory and the company has been doing foundation repairs for years, Miller explained. Today there are numerous franchises across the country, five of which are in Florida and two of which Miller owns. One of his franchises is in High Springs and employs 18 people. Every six months, he said, all Ram Jack employees attend continuing education classes in Ada, Okla.

Research and development, Miller explained, is an ongoing endeavor at Ram Jack. The company holds about 22 patents on their products. They use eco-friendly products such as thermoplastic, corrosion-resistant powder coating, rather than galvanized material that tends to leech zinc, lead and tin into the aquifer when inserted into soil, he added.

“Everything we put into the ground is American made,” said Miller. “We don’t buy anything from China or any other countries. All the steel comes from American steel mills.”

The foundation at NHE is settling because the soil is unable to hold the columns and there is timber compression, Miller said.

“It’s not that the timber is decaying, but it’s had so much weight on it for so many years,” Miller explained. “You can see where it meets up with the brick you have depressions, so you get a little bit of settlement there. Plus, the columns themselves are settling.”

Lack of water or too much water in the soil can cause foundation settling, Miller said. Or, it can be attributed to the age of the building.

Negative ramifications, he said, can occur when trying to elevate a foundation, such as cracking windows,  walls and roof issues. The building will be elevated by use of helical anchors that are screwed into the ground.

“One helical pile if installed to maximum capacity can hold about 65,000 pounds,” said Miller.

Once the helical anchors are set in the ground and spaced about two feet apart, and beam brackets are installed, hydraulic jacks will be used to lift up the foundation, which will take only a matter of minutes, Miller explained. A device called a ZipLevel will then be utilized to monitor the foundation afterward for the life of the building.

Miller said there are two ways to install a helical pile, either through the floor or by going under the building to the crawl space. Ram Jack, he said, is the only company that can do the second option. In this way, the interior floors won’t have to be cut open, thereby preserving the historical value of the school.

Yet another issue at NHE is sagging beams in the auditorium.

“You can either rebuild the whole roof system, or you can provide a center support,” Miller said. “Right dead center, right down the walkway. That’s going to be the most cost effective way of providing instant support.”

The center support column may be erected off to one side of the aisle and would be aesthetically concealed, according to architectural engineer Greg Kelley from Clemons, Rutherford & Associates. Kelley said helical piles are a good concept and very sound.

Moffses told the board there has been some slight shifting going on at NHE in the last several months.

“We’ve got to do something to stop that,” said Moffses. “There’s a safety factor that’s addressed.”

Ram Jack’s proposal for the job came in at $49,600. Moffses said the other option is to utilize portables that will cost about $110,000, but would be “very disruptive.”

The board had no objection to moving forward to the next step, which is getting engineering studies for repairs to the building and putting the project out for bid.

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