After many obstacles and delays, plus the suspension of the general contractor's license, the new Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce building is nearing completion.
"We are really close to finishing," Chamber President Jim Roach said last week. "There isn't anything major that needs to be done it's all minor fixes. I would hope we'll be ready in a month or two."
Two and a half years ago fire struck the "old" chamber building (built in 1967) burning it to the ground. The cause - arson. Plans to rebuild started immediately.
"Right after the fire our building committee sent out bids to six licensed builders," Roach said. "They went through a vetting process and hired Marra Construction."
The building committee received the insurance settlement and held a benefit dinner to raise the necessary funds. One year and five months later, on June 12, 2013, the GPICC held a ground-breaking ceremony for its new building. Steve Timcak, president of the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, began the ground-breaking ceremony by telling those in attendance that June 12 was a new beginning after the tragic loss of the old building to arson.
The general contractor, Marra Construction, projected that the building would be completed three months after construction was started in September (depending on the weather) and by December significant progress had been made.
"It seemed we had numerous issues to deal with," Roach said. "There was the water pipe outside. That was an unexpected expense that cost us $20,000 to meet the fire code for the sprinklers. Honc jumped right in and took care of that for us. There were zoning issues, an infinite number of changes, and other delays that were not taken care of in a timely manner. There were times when the chamber took over smaller details from the general contractor just to get things done. That's when we asked Richard Dobson to get involved."
"My family was in construction and I've been in construction," said Dobson, a chamber board member. "I know something about the permitting process and contracting. So they asked me to help get the building finished. Marra was probably about three quarters finished but we didn't have the final inspection on the electrical, plumbing wasn't finished, air conditioning wasn't finished, there's a lot that wasn't finished. And that was the problem progress just kind of stopped.
"I got hold of the electrician and the plumber and resolved some relatively minor issues," he continued. "Once that was taken care of, things took off again. And then we received a stop work order, I think it was July 10th when we were notified that Marra Construction's license was suspended - not with anything related to this building but another matter. Of course, that meant that all work on the building had to stop."
The board met immediately to decide whether to stick with Marra or find another general contractor. There was a mutual agreement between Marra and the board to replace Marra Construction.
"The issue now was to find a contractor that would take over another contractor's work," Roach said. "We hired Marvin Development, owned by Richard F. Durling. He is a very well respected contractor."
Roach released this statement last week: "Lee County permitting has approved the transfer of the General Contractor. The last few items of work to be finished on the building will have begun by the time this statement is published and we expect the change in General Contractors to have no impact on getting the final inspections within the next several days. Richard F. Durling of Marvin Development Corp, has been approved as our new General Contractor. Additionally, NO work was done on our building by any unlicensed contractors and all required work was done with the appropriate legal permits and inspections by Lee County."
Work should begin within a week or two.
"We are all very pleased with the quality of the building," Roach said. "The A/C system is state of the art using the smallest amount of energy, we are waiting for the final A/C inspection and the fire/water line pressure testing. Once those things are completed we should be ready to open. The building is solid."
The new building is designed in "island style" and provides 1,428 square feet of "green" and energy efficient space. The "open air" design gives it that "island feel." Inside there is a vaulted ceiling that provides an open feel but more importantly, helps to keep the building cool. At the top, in the center of the roof, there is a cupola, not just for architectural appeal, but to provide interior natural light.
The building sits on a raised concrete slab. The walls were constructed using styrofoam frames the height of the 9-foot walls. Inside these forms concrete was poured creating a one-piece concrete building. The exterior is covered in Hardi-siding, made of concrete, creating a hurricane-proof, fire-proof building. The 'R' factor is estimated to be in the high 40s.
These new concrete technologies and new heating and cooling systems will reduce costs and reduce the effects on the environment. And the spray foam insulation will make this an airtight building. It is not only a new "green" building but a building that will withstand fire, hurricanes and just about anything.
"We are in the very final stages, Dobson said. "We have the final on the air conditioning and there are very few things that need to be taken care of before we open. When everyone sees this building, they will have something they can be proud of. The building is great."