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Weaver House deck reconstruction begins

By Jake Allen / The Holland Sentinel • Sep 18, 2017 at 12:00 PM

WEST OLIVE — Ottawa County has started to rebuild the Weaver House deck that had collapsed in June, injuring 14 people.

The rebuilding project began last week, but the county may face legal action and take legal action of its own relating to the collapse.

The Weaver House in Port Sheldon Township is located inside the county’s Pine Bend Park. The house is about 100 years old, but the deck was about 12 years old when the collapse occurred.

The county hired GMB Architecture and Engineering to study what caused the collapse. GMB is also the firm spearheading the deck’s reconstruction.

About a week after the collapse, GMB determined the laminated veneer lumber used for the structural beams was “the wrong material to use in the outdoor environment of this deck” because it is “not suitable for the absorption of chemicals in the pressure treatment process” that is used to make wood appropriate for outdoor use.

Doug Van Essen, corporation counsel for the county, said no lawsuits relating to the deck collapse have been filed against the county; however, one person who was injured in the collapse has filed a claim. The claim did not quantify how much compensation the person is seeking for injuries sustained. Van Essen is unsure if the county will accept the claim, or if a subsequent lawsuit against Ottawa County will be filed.

Van Essen said the county was also a victim in the deck collapse because it was a design defect that caused it.

He also said the county filed a claim against the architect who designed the Weaver House deck, but no lawsuit has been filed yet. Van Essen said the deck was designed by Winter-Troutwine Associates Inc., an architect firm based in Grand Rapids.

The deck design called for twin laminated veneer lumber beams of 1-3/4 inches wide by 11-1/4 inches deep to be attached to one another and for the joint beam to serve as the interior spine of the deck.

The joint beam sheared at one of the treated posts, causing a “V” shaped collapse of the deck.

“We have identified the problem, and we have notified the architect who we think is responsible for the improper product specified,” Van Essen said. “We’ve notified the architect’s insurance carrier that there’s an issue here.”

A representative from Winter-Troutwine Associates Inc. said no one was available to comment on the claim filed by the county or the deck collapse.

Van Essen said he also informed the person who filed a claim against the county that the county believes Winter-Troutwine Associates Inc. to be the responsible party for the collapse.

Curt TerHaar, coordinator of park planning and development at Ottawa County Parks and Recreation, said the new deck should be completed Oct. 9. Structural work will also be done below the Weaver House’s three-season room, bringing the cost of the project to $99,000. Ottawa County’s insurance claim on Weaver House will fund the project.

TerHaar said he is confident in GMB Architecture and Engineering’s ability to build a sound structure and a safe deck for future use.

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