Selectmen Approve Public Works Department’s Request to Create Plan for Nature Center Roof Project

by Catherine Gorey

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a request from the Department of Public Works during its regular meeting Tuesday morning for $21,300 to enter a contract with consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill for a plan to make structural repairs to the roof of the New Canaan Nature Center Visitors’ Center building.

An earlier engineering study identified that the cabling system supporting the roof within the Nature Center’s walls was a point of concern. The department cited “issues including adjustments on backing systems.”

Following the initial study, the engineer concluded that the structural integrity of the building is threatened by excessive tension on the cable system.

“We need to solidify the roof…[the engineer] feels that the long term longevity of the building will be compromised if we don’t do something to help support that roof,” Public Works Director Tiger Mann said at the meeting, which was held at Town Hall.

The original engineer has since switched firms to work with Fuss & O’Neill, which has local offices in Trumbull and Manchester, but Mann said that the department feels it’s important to be able to contract the individual who has previous “knowledge and drafts” of the project.

“So we invited Fuss & O’Neill to put forward a construction plan to design a column system to help support the roof. We need to get a plan first, then we’ll come back with a request for approval of construction,” Mann said.

First Selectmen Kevin Moynihan asked Mann to confirm that the request is for the plan of the project, not the actual construction costs. Mann then clarified that this request is only for the plans.

While Selectmen Kit Devereaux asked for clarification on how the roof is unsafe and how the columns will solve the problem.

“[The roof] is pushing out the walls about an inch-and-a-half and there’s a question [of whether] the cabling can support the amount of tension,” Mann said. “The weight of the roof rests on the columns instead of the walls.”

Mann also added that the New Canaan Nature Center is cooperating with the Department and is fully aware of how the project will affect its operation. It is unclear if the Nature Center will contribute financially to the costs.

Devereaux and Monihyan approved the request in the absence of Selectmen Nick Williams who was not in attendance.

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