Ground-penetrating radar and soil borings didn’t give a clear picture on a long-term solution for Carrie Matthews Recreation Center, according to City Engineer Carl Prewitt.
Prewitt told the Decatur City Council at Monday’s work session that a report from MidSouth Testing showed rainwater drainage off the Carrie Matthews roof is causing its gymnasium floor to sink. There’s a similar problem along the eastern wall in the small meeting room at the front of the center.
The city paid MidSouth Testing $9,000 to conduct geotechnical testing with ground-penetrating radar and soil borings and to perform a building deformation study.
Prewitt said the soil is saturated and this is causing the floor to sink.
The building has gutters, so the city first has to add downspouts to direct the water away from the building, which he estimated will cost about $20,000.
The choices in repairing existing damage are pumping “flowable” concrete under the gymnasium floor until it fills any crevices and raises the floor to level, or replacing the old floor with a new one.
He said he doesn’t know how much either option would cost. Councilman Billy Jackson said an estimate in 2013 on using foam to raise the floor was roughly $60,000.
Prewitt recommended waiting until the soil dries and then doing more soil borings. However, Jackson said the city should just remove the floor, look at the soil and then put in a new floor.
“We don’t need to spend more money on testing,” Jackson said.
Otherwise, Prewitt said the building appears to be sound. Carrie Matthews, which opened in 1969, was one of three centers built during Mayor J. Gilmer Blackburn’s administration.
The rec center, located at 902 Sixth St. N.W., was built on a site where a sawmill once operated. After the mill closed, residents began using the property as a dump.
However, Prewitt said there’s no sign of dumped materials from the dim view of the radar. The radar’s view of the substructure was distorted by the steel in the concrete support beams.
“From the soil samples, the building is built on 7 feet of good building material,” Prewitt said. “That’s enough for a solid foundation.”
Decatur Youth Services uses the building for its programs, and basketball on the sinking gym floor is it most popular program. Prewitt said he will try to plan any repairs around DYS and its schedule if possible.
Council President Paige Bibbee and fellow members Charles Kirby and Kristi Hill said they want to wait until they receive cost estimates on the repair options before making a decision.
“If it costs us half of what it takes to build a new building, then we should build a new building,” Kirby said.
Jackson said he doesn’t believe a new floor will cost as much as half the cost of a new recreation center. He added the council also needs to take into account the historical relationship between the neighborhood and the center.
“We have school dances there,” Jackson said. “We vote there. We held wedding receptions there. We played and fought there. We have a lot of history in that building.”
The Northwest Decatur recreation center was named after longtime educator and civic leader Carrie Matthews. She was instrumental in establishing the Sterrs and Cashin Homes day care centers.