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City looking at options for coal tipple

Alex Doty • Nov 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM

The historic coal tipple along Harbor Drive remains on the city’s artifact to-do list, three years after engineers worked to evaluate the condition of the structure.

“The coal tipple ... in 2015, we did some treatment of the exposed steel,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said. “They found that those areas do seem to be holding up better than the areas that weren’t treated.”

The city applied a sealant to the exposed steel and waited two years in order to evaluate the sealant’s performance compared to the untreated areas.

“I am glad to see what was done seems to be slowing down the weatherization process,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said.

With the positive results from the test treatments, city staff is now looking ahead to the possibility of applying the proposed preservation treatment to the remainder of the exposed structure.

City officials say they also want engineers from Abonmarche to further study the structure, paying up to $7,500 to evaluate the condition of the roof. City officials say that there is a crack in the rooftop that is allowing water to infiltrate the tipple, which could eventually lead to structural deterioration over time.

There’s currently just over $81,000 in the Coal Tipple Restoration Fund at the Grand Haven Community Foundation thanks to fundraising efforts that took place several years ago.

“I’m all for going ahead and taking care of the rust,” Councilman Mike Fritz said. “I don’t think we can afford to go up with a complete restoration.”

Added Fritz: “The roof, it needs to be done one way or another,” he said. “Those are the two things I think we should do ... It’s part of our history here.”

The State Historic Preservation Office has confirmed that the tipple — built in 1925 — is the only one in the state that the public can observe up close.

Fundraising for tipple preservation began with a gift from the Matilda & Harold Crane Donor Advised Fund in 2012.

In January 2014, portions of the tipple’s interior were cleaned, and openings were screened to prevent animals from nesting and depositing waste inside. Fundraisers were also held that year to raise money for coal tipple preservation.

In 2014, the city worked with Holland-based construction firm Elzinga & Volkers to evaluate the structure’s condition and to recommend corrective measures. The plan presented by the contractor was to restore the structure to a condition where the perimeter fence could be taken down and work could be done on the interior of the structure for some type of re-use. Cost estimates for this type of work were in the $350,000-$400,000 range.

Engineers from Abonmarche presented the city an alternative, less costly idea that would preserve, not restore, the structure using the industrial coating method tested over the past several years.

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