Report warns against delaying clock tower repairs

Posted:  Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 7:15am
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More significant and costly repairs will be needed to Wiscasset’s clock tower at 25 Fort Hill St., according to a newly released engineering report.

Brunswick-based Lincoln/Hanley Engineering Associates, Inc.’s inspection differs from what Selectman Bob Blagden and Ben Rines Jr. reported following their tour of the tower last month.

Thad Gabryszewski carried out his inspection Oct. 10 accompanied by Joe Cahoon, the building’s caretaker. Maureen Barrett of Henderson, Nevada owns the property; the town owns the clock and tower.

“Water damage is evident throughout the tower,” Gabryszewski writes. “Water staining is visible on many levels of the tower, steel plates are rusted, and wood members have rotted.”

Gabryszewski states, the “beams that support the cupola are badly decayed, particularly at the north side of the tower” and one is notably cracked. He warns the problem needs to be addressed as soon as possible. “Under a heavy windstorm the damaged beam could completely fail, jeopardizing the stability of the cupola,” he writes.

Doing repairs within the tower as selectmen have suggested is possible, Gabryszewski writes, but working within the cramped confines would be labor-intensive and likely more expensive than temporarily removing the cupola to make needed repairs.

Gabryszewski suspects water is leaking into the tower from the cupola, louvers or siding. “The tower will continue to decay and fall into disrepair unless sources of water infiltration are stopped,” he continues. The firm recommends regular tower and cupola inspections. Addressing minor problems as they are discovered would be less expensive and avoid costlier future repairs. The last restoration of the cupola and tower was carried out in the 1980s and followed a 1950s renovation of the tower.

No cost estimates were provided. Last June, voters raised $4,000 for repairs to the town clock. The town office also received a private donation of $1,000.

Wiscasset builder Jason Putnam has offered to look into repairing the tower.  

The engineering inspection follows a Sept. 20 report on the clock’s condition given by Rick Balzer of the Freeport-based Balzer Family Clock Works. In 1993, Balzer Clock Works removed the clock from the tower and carried out an $18,000 restoration of it. Selectmen have continued to have the Balzer company annually maintain the clock. Rick Balzer suggested, due to the tower’s condition, the town may want to consider permanently removing the clock from it. 

The E. Howard Co. clock was a gift to the town from Captain William Henry Clark, a Civil War veteran, on the conditions it be placed where he could see it from his home overlooking the Sheepscot River and it be cared for, kept in good running order and insured. The townspeople accepted the clock on those terms at the March 1907 annual town meeting.