Town files civil suit against Burchfield building’s architects, engineers

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Town of West Seneca is moving forward, filing a civil lawsuit against the Burchfield designers — Louis Design Group and Nussbaumer & Clarke, inc. The town taking legal action after a consultant came in, looking at the Burchfield Nature and Art Center, determining a man made error and design flaw is the cause behind the site being structurally unsound.

“It is a design and engineering problem,” said Eugene Hart, one of the town council members.

Taxpayer dollars covered most of the construction costs for the center and that’s why the town is moving forward with the lawsuit seeking between $800,000 and $1.7 million in financial compensation.

The Burchfield building is only 16 years old; already, though, areas in the structure are giving way, deteriorating, and starting to bend and buckle.

“It shouldn’t be happpening to something that new,” said Ken Pearl, an architect the town is consulting with to analyze the state of the site.

Pearl points out issues in the design, showing the original blueprints where the engineers and architects expected the ground to be about 2 feet below where it actually is. Pearl says those who constructed the building probably faced some difficulties looking but feels they just brought things to code, never actually altering the design details.

“There’s wood in the wall structure that’s below ground so the snow melt and rain water has been getting into the side of the building ad it’s rotting out a small area at the side of the wall,” said Pearl. “It’s a relatively persistent problem around the perimeter of the building.”

The groups using the Burchfield haven’t been able to access the building since January and now that a civil suit is underway, it could be years until they’re allowed back inside.

Pearl says the issue is in the infancy phases, being caught pretty early; suggesting several times it’s doesn’t appear as if the building will collapse anytime soon.

The architectural consultant is estimating it’ll cost about $993,000 to repair the building and even more to build a new site, if that’s needed. Hart says they’re leaning toward repairing it but now that legal action being taken a timeline for when it could be fixed is unknown.

“It’s going to need some engineering analysis a lot more effort to figure out how to solve it,” said Pearl.

 

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