BERLIN — It was early December when Fred Fields, a subcontractor who often does work for local businessman Jack Burbage, got to work shoring up the wall in the property across from town hall. The work was the result of something Fields noticed during a regular inspection of the property and, as far as Fields knew, wasn’t too big a deal at all.
In fact, when he went to town planning director Chuck Ward to let him know they’d be working on the facade, Fields wasn’t convinced the street needed to be closed.
“There was never a chance of that wall buckling into the street,” he said.
Ward agreed, saying that when he was talking about the needed work and said the wall was buckling by into the street he was referencing the direction, not an imminent collapse.
Ward said that any time there’s facade work going on so close to the street it’s better to close it to prevent any debris or even an errant brick from flying into the street but that William Street was closed out of an abundance of caution rather than a legitimate concern of danger.
“We probably could have just closed one lane,” he said. Adding that there was no time he believed the wall would crumble into the street.
Unfortunately Clara Yom, who runs Goober’s restaurant, starting getting phone calls asking if her restaurant was safe, whether it was staying open, and other questions that barely made any sense to her.
“A rumor is a rumor, they say, and it will go away,” she said. “But I can’t wait.”
Yom said times are difficult enough for her restaurant business without the suggestion that her patrons were in peril at any point.
Fields said there are several bearing walls between the facade repair site and Goobers and he can’t imagine a scenario where the restaurant was in danger, even if the wall was unsound.
While it’s too soon to tell whether the roar will require any further closures as the facade work continues, it’s unlikely that it will. The wall is completely stabilized and Fields said they’ll replace the missing brick with cinder block and then re-apply a stucco facade.
He said the historic commission has already said since he’s making no substantive changes, he won’t have to gain any further approvals from them.
Fields said it was just an unfortunate coincidence that he was getting the historic commission approval in the middle of the recurring vinyl window fight involving the Atlantic Hotel. He said he believed that fact more than anything else needlessly heightened concerns.