SAN JUAN — Long-stymied plans for a live green roof above Amigos Del Valle may finally be able to take root in San Juan.
Texas A&M University at Kingsville representatives told city commissioners this week that they had found creative ways to make the project a go again after the city feared it could not find a vendor to comply with project weight limitations.
“We bid this thing, gosh, three times,” City Manager J.J. Rodriguez said.
The city was approved in 2010 for a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, administered via TAMUK, to install a roof of living plants and grasses. City leaders opted to put the roof above the city-owned building used to house Amigos Del Valle at 600 W. First St., but repairs would be necessary to make the roof strong enough to hold it.
Engineers then discovered serious structural problems with the aging building, so city leaders reduced the scope of the project and invested $117,000 in 2011 and early 2012 so the greens could grow on a portion of the roof. When that work was complete, contractors found more needed repairs, including completely nonfunctioning bathrooms.
When all of those issues had been addressed, the company that had been primed to install the roof backed out and a local company willing to do it said the roof still wasn’t strong enough — it would need to hold 35 pounds per square foot, not the 17 pounds per square foot that the other company had advised, Rodriguez said.
City commissioners made it clear they would not support further money put into roof support, so structural engineers and TAMUK representatives tried to figure out another option.
“Essentially after that we went back to the drawing board,” Rodriguez said. “They looked at other way to innovate, think outside the box and still pull this thing off.”
The result was a plan by engineers and TAMUK personnel to use planting trays with egg carton-style depressions, lighter soil and lower shrubbery to lighten the weight load. The university will also take over the responsibility of finding local vendors so San Juan doesn’t need to go through a bidding process again.
“That scope is no longer for the city to worry about, and a lot of it they’re going to do in-house,” Rodriguez said.
The project is budgeted at about $318,000 with the grant paying for $190,700 of that, cost projections show. A TAMUK presentation to commissioners last week estimated it will take about four months to install the roof.
“That helps remove some of the pressure of ‘This thing is a stalemate, it’s not moving,’” Rodriguez said. “It’s a better deal for us.”
Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4428.
Follow Elizabeth Findell on Twitter: @efindell
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