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Gainesville confident of new deck
Same architect designed courthouse facility that now is under repair
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Although the same architect designed both Gainesville’s newly-constructed parking deck and the faulty deck at the Hall County courthouse, city officials say they expect there will be no problems with the new facility when it opens.

The question for city officials now is the official opening date for the $6.85 million deck at the Georgia Mountains Center.

Gainesville’s project manager Jarrett Nash says the problems with the partially-closed deck at the Hall County Courthouse were caused by a contractor, not by the design.

The top level of the Hall County Courthouse Parking Deck has been closed for nearly a month as the county repairs cracks caused by a sagging beam.

In 2007, engineers found that contractors did not properly anchor a beam to a supporting column when they expanded the deck in 2002, according to a news release from Hall County spokeswoman Nikki Young. The beam later began to sag, causing the concrete slab on top to crack.

County officials say the rest of the parking deck on the corner of Spring Street and E.E. Butler Parkway is safe to use, and the top level of the deck should be reopened in phases by the end of the year.

But city officials are still unsure of the opening date of the facility at the Georgia Mountains Center, which has been under construction since the beginning of the year.

They say they will be sure, however, that the deck is safe to use before it opens.

City Manager Kip Padgett said the city will have a third party geotechnical firm to review the new facility when construction is complete.

Currently, contractors on the deck are testing a storm drainage pipe to ensure it does not have any leaks that will cause problems, Nash said.

The pipe, located between two supporting columns on the deck, could not cause structural failure to the deck if it is leaking, Nash said, but it could cause dirt to wash out underneath the deck and create a sinkhole-type effect.

"We’re just doing some additional testing beyond what’s even normally called for to make sure that’s not the case," Nash said.

Contractors are using ground-penetrating radar, as one would use to search for old graves underground, to determine if any leaks in the pipe are creating voids of dirt underneath the deck, Nash said.

If there are such voids, Nash said it could push the completion of the deck back another two weeks while contractors fill them in with concrete.

Nash is hesitant to set a new completion date for the deck. Originally, the deck was scheduled for summer completion, but contractors with Optum Construction, the local company managing construction, said heavy rains throughout the spring and problems with the company providing elevators kept them from meeting that deadline.

The completion date then was moved to the second week of October, but construction is ongoing.

"The question now has really become if it’s better to open the deck in a less-than-final completion standard or get it absolutely complete and then open it," Nash said. "I think we’re still going to have minor touch-up work going on once we open it, but the deck’s going to be much closer to final completion when it opens (than had it opened in October)."

Nash said elevators have been delivered and crews are working to install them. He said the deck likely will be open by Christmas.

"We would love to have cars parking before Thanksgiving, and if the testing (on the storm drainage pipe) and everything bears out well, that could probably happen," Nash said. "But you ask me for a completion date, that’s a tough thing to give with not knowing when the elevators will be complete and operating."

When completed, the four-level facility will have two entrances and three exits, and will accommodate 419 vehicles. The deck, designed by architect Steve Hill, is designed to allow growth to six levels.