Upgrading Our Building
If adversity is the catalyst for God's people to grow, we could be on the threshold of wonderful transformation.
It was in a January 2017 sabbath potluck lunch right after a 4 foot snow that we noticed ceiling tiles of our fellowship hall buckling. We quickly filed an insurance claim and triggered research into whether our roof was going to cave in or not. Working with insurance and lining up a contractor took more than two years while we developed a plan for repairing our sagging roof.
Because Tahoe is a tourism hot spot in summer and winter, we wanted to use the repair process to expand our hospitality space for potlucks. Potlucks are part of our ministry, so we planned to remove the walls and closets dividing the fellowship hall from one of our sabbath school rooms. This would leave a larger common area for gatherings.
In October, 2019 we finally started construction with RGH Construction, a local contracting firm owned by Rob Hembree. Rob had warm memories of attending a Seventh-day Adventist school when he was growing up in Georgia. Connecting with him seemed providential.
Construction began with demolition of the load-bearing closets and digging foundation footings for the vertical structural beams that would form the base of the roof repairs. The foundation work led to discovery of some unexpected problems with the sub-floor system. Several of the concrete piers holding up the floor had shifted due to the expansion and contraction of the soil. In fact some of these piers had moved so far that they were no longer touching the support beams that were supposed to rest on them. The local building inspector saw the problem and told us that the problem was so extensive, we would need to completely remove the flooring system.
With the floor gone, even more problems with the foundation became evident. A section of the foundation between the main church building and the fellowship hall, which was added on later, was rotting and crumbling. That portion of the wall was completely unsupported. Further, the three exterior foundation walls of the fellowship hall weren't properly built. Those walls were sitting upon a stem wall without the support of a real foundation. From an engineering standpoint, the three exterior walls were also at risk of catastrophic failure. The building inspector ruled our building unsafe for public use, and we were required to cancel services for one sabbath.
The next week RGH Construction brought in hydraulic jacks to raise the wall between the main sanctuary and the fellowship hall, opened up an access hole in the side of the building and inserted a 50 foot long steel beam underneath to stabilize the structure. The crumbling foundation would need to be dug and completely rebuilt in that section of the building. The next sabbath after services were cancelled, we were back in our building, but potlucks had to be moved to the much smaller library.
When the Heavenly Valley church was built, it was located in the middle of a beautiful grassy meadow. It must have seemed like an ideal picturesque spot. But over the years the church has dealt with the downside of that decision. Tahoe's climate can be harsh. Snowfall of three to four feet is not unheard of. And the meadow is subject to flooding when melting snow has no place to drain. After adding the fellowship hall, drainage problems persisted the the point that 8 inches of fill dirt was added to the surface and paved over to drain water away from the structure. The only problem was that the top of the stem wall was sub-grade. Building codes require foundations to be built at least 8 inches ABOVE ground level.
By now it was mid-November, and all that was left of the fellowship hall was an empty shell. A roof repair project had morphed into much more. Years of snow fall from above and shifting ground from beneath had combined to make the building unstable and unsafe. We couldn't afford to pursue repair of both, and insurance would not provide any additional coverage for foundation failure. Obviously, insurance companies learned from the story Jesus told of the wise man who built his house on the rock in Luke 6:24-25, because their policies won't cover foundation failure due to insufficient construction practices.
The only supports holding up the roof were the outside walls, and the weather forecast was looking ominous. If you remember the original cause that prompted us to pursue these roof repairs, it was snow load. For all we knew, the forecasted snow - if heavy enough - could lead to catastrophic failure of the unsupported roof. We were still working with insurance money for the repair project, and there wasn't enough money left to either repair the existing structure or tear it down and rebuild. Church board members made the difficult decision to demolish the remaining structure just before Thanksgiving.
When 2020 began, the general morale in this little church was a little beaten down. The remaining insurance money, supplemented by financial assistance from the Nevada-Utah Conference, was used to repair the crumbling foundation wall and patch up the gaping opening of what used to be the fellowship hall. Church finances were drained to almost zero.
To be continued...