Berlin Visitor’s Center In Line For Roof Replacement

BERLIN — The planned overhaul of the Berlin Visitor’s Center will take a big step this year with the replacement of the building’s aging roof.

The renovation is estimated to cost around $40,000, roughly half of which will be picked up by the state. The roof will also be constructed with “green” materials.

The current roof is not in good condition, especially during rain events.

“If you go up there after it rains, it’s like a lake,” Michael Day, director of Economic and Community Development, told the Town Council earlier this month.

It’s at the point where the roof is actually detrimental to the rest of the building.

“The bad roof has caused other problems down there where the chamber has done some minor repairs,” said Day. “There’s drywall on the side where the roof has leaked, come down and hurt the drywall and walls and stuff.”

The town has marked the visitor’s center as a major project as Berlin works to further develop its downtown.

“I think it plays a very important role and its role will only become more important as the years go by,” said Mayor Gee Williams. “We have a variety of ways in which we attract people into the community. It’s not just one thing.”

The visitor’s center could be a lynchpin in that downtown development. It is seeing a lot of minor interior improvement this winter and big changes in space usage.

“The two ladies down there are working on really creating an art gallery store and selling items there,” said Day. “We’re working out the commissions and Salt Water Media is working with us on this to figure out how to make it all work.”

This is in line with the extended service the town wants to see out of the center. For a long time, Berlin got by with only the most basic visitor information and support but has outgrown that.

“So 10 years ago they were trying to do this out of what I think would be best described as a large closet,” said Williams. “Maybe that was appropriate and what was needed at the time but what we have here is a very dynamic, and I think successful, partnership between the town of Berlin and our Berlin Main Street program.”

The roof replacement will be the first of several renovations targeted at obtaining a more comprehensive visitor service. Estimates for building an energy efficient or “green” roof have come in at about $40,000. The state should foot about half of the bill, according to Day.

“We’re just waiting for a letter but they told us that we’re getting $20,000 for this roof replacement and they’d like us to pay the other part,” he said.

Convincing the state to partner with the town didn’t go as smoothly as it could have at first. While the town has made a big push in recent years to improve overall energy efficiency, the state requirements for materials to be used in construction where unexpectedly strict and caused some confusion.

“We went to the state with apples and they said come back with oranges and we came back with oranges,” said Day, “and they said … we like this, and this is what we’re going to give you $20,000 for.”

At the request of the council, Day will re-visit prior contract bids to determine a final price for the project adhering to the strict material requirements imposed by the state. Day expects to return to the council soon with a final bid recommendation with roof renovations to follow within a few weeks. Subsequent to that the visitor’s center will need a new heating and air system though early predictions put that at least several months done the road.