Emergency stabilization underway on Main Street

By Pauline Liu
Some emergency stabilization work has begun to rescue a row of four buildings on Main Street in Margaretville, which were ravaged by the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene on August 28.

For the property owners, there is newfound hope that their businesses may be back before winter.
“Yes, we got the permit and the contractor is already working in there,” said Lore Mahler cheerfully, on Monday. She and her husband, Juergen, own 806-812 Main Street. Their building houses Reprise, Main Street Jewelers, and apartments upstairs. Mahler explained that she was pleased to obtain the permit. “It’s a step forward,” she said.

On Monday, Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis issued building permits to not only the Mahlers, but also Robin Tischmacher. He owns 814 Main Street, which was home to The Village Pub. Tischmacher has hired a contractor and expects work to begin on his building later this week. The owners of two more buildings are expected to apply for building permits soon. Davis explained that each of the permits is for $1,000 worth of stabilization work. “They (the building owners) will add to the permit as the work progresses,” Davis said. “I’m glad we’re finally proceeding forward.”

New building plan
The permits are being approved under the new building plan submitted by engineer Paul Gossen of Vega. Ever since Gossen formally presented his ideas to the property owners last Friday, they’ve expressed a determination to carry them out. Even before Gossen made his presentation, the owners were praising his study because of its affordability.

The owners were given other options, which were presented to them three weeks ago by Lamont Engineers of Cobleskill and Roxbury. Under that engineering study, which was paid for by the Village of Margaretville, the entire block of six buildings could be rehabilitated for $840,000. The Lamont study proposed using steel beams to jack up the buildings at the same time, so that the basements and foundation walls could be rebuilt.

Gossen’s plan limits the work to just four buildings. He excluded the Cheese Barrel building and Suites on Main from his project, after determining that the two buildings did not sustain structural damage. He estimates that the first phase of the repairs to the remaining structures will cost no more than $5,000 per building. “I know $5,000 is a lot of money,” Gossen said apologetically to the owners.

Gossen’s stabilization project is to be carried out in two phases, first using plywood and then concrete to re-enforce the structures. Code Enforcement Officer Davis has given Gossen’s plan a glowing review. “He’s using the building components to stabilize the buildings, which is absolutely genius,” said Davis. “He’s taking the short wood framed supporting walls of the existing structures and making them more structurally sound by adding plywood as structural panels.”

When the owners asked Davis about his thoughts on the proposal by Lamont Engineers, he had this to say. “What was being suggested in the other plan was a much more elaborate project and process,” he said. “I see nothing wrong with this (Gossen’s plan) at all.” Gossen explained that the scope of his project is much smaller, since it won’t involve raising the buildings or leveling the floors. “So my project will be a Volkswagen and not a Mercedes,” Gossen said with a laugh

The plan’s use of plywood and screws makes it affordable. According to Gossen, a sheet of three-quarter inch thick plywood currently costs about $60. As Lore Mahler has found out, the work can also be done quickly. “The contractor told us that first phase with plywood will be completed in two or three days,” she said. Davis believes the stabilization can be completed in about two weeks.

Phase two of Gossen’s project involves making more permanent repairs using concrete. So far, he has no cost estimate for this part of the plan. “It won’t be $840,000,” he said. “We can excavate around the embankment walls and pour a concrete curtain behind the stone wall. The idea is not to redo everything, but stabilize it to the maximum ability possible. Lock it in place.” Robin Tischmacher nodded approvingly as he listened to the presentation. “Genius,” he said.

The owners of the two other buildings involved in the project have hired a contractor and are seeking permits. The building, which houses Rocko Minerals & Jewelry at 816 Main Street, is owned by business partners Marylou Pratt and Florence Barra of Fishkill. Barra also owns 818 Main Street with her husband, Joseph. “I cried when I heard the buildings were damaged,” said Barra. “We came out of that meeting very happy because that last engineer has given us a lot of hope.” Pratt agrees. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “There is a God. It‘s going to take a while, but we’re ready to do the work.”

The property owners and community leaders agree that there will also have to be a third phase to the project, which will involve raising funds to repair the facades of the damaged structures and beautify Main Street. Right now, the building owners are seeking business grants through the Catskills Watershed Corporation and the MARK Project to get their repairs done.

Meanwhile, Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton explained the importance of getting the streets reopened. Last week he met with representatives from the state Department of Transportation. He is hoping the buildings can be stabilized in time for the Main and Bridge streets to be reopened by November 5. If the deadline can be met, the mayor feels that a celebration will be in order. “We’re shooting for a deadline, so we can have a little block party,” said Stanton.