TILTON — With so little rain this summer, maintenance workers at Vermilion Manor Nursing Home didn't realize two sections of the facility's roof had suffered hail damage until about two weeks ago when the area received its first significant rainfall in weeks.
Mark Cravens, buildings and grounds superintendent for the county, said leaks appeared during that rainfall about two weeks ago, affecting about a dozen rooms at the county-owned nursing home on Catlin-Tilton Road just west of Tilton.
In last Thursday's downpour, more leaks emerged, bringing the total to about 17 rooms that were affected, including part of the kitchen, according to Cravens. It's about a 30,000-square-foot area that's damaged, Cravens said, which is almost half of the facility's basically flat, membrane-type roof.
The county called in a roofing company that put a coating on some of the worst spots, he said. Since then, county officials brought in its insurance company to assess the situation, and the nursing home's maintenance crew has been seal coating the two large sections as a temporary repair until a more permanent fix can be done.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said Tuesday that he's still awaiting word from the insurance company on what it may cover, but the county's deductible is $25,000.
McMahon said he's declared the situation an emergency, which gives him the ability to arrange for repairs without going to the county board for approval.
Cravens said it's definitely hail damage. He said there's a spider-web-like pattern in the damaged sections, a result of the hail piercing the roof. He said there are little pin holes where the hail hit with about 20 of those little holes per square foot throughout the two damaged sections.
But the county has had such a dry spell, Cravens said, that he and the maintenance crew at Vermilion Manor are uncertain when it happened.
"It's been fairly recently, we are guessing. We just don't know when," he said.
About 300 ceiling tiles have been ruined and replaced as a result, but nursing home staff have not had to move residents out of the rooms affected. Cravens said residents didn't have to be relocated, because fortunately, they were able to rearrange things inside the rooms to avoid the leaks.
Cravens said the hope is that the seal-coating holds until a permanent fix is done. He said the rest of the roof is fine.
The cost of maintaining the 40-year-old nursing home building is one argument voiced by those who want the county to sell the nursing home. The county board voted earlier this year to ask voters in this November's election for the authority to sell the nursing home.
In February, prior to the board's decision on a referendum, John Weaver, director of the Public Building Commission, reported to the county board on the physical condition of the building. Weaver told the board that the facility needs more than $2 million in improvements, including the roof. He said the building has much of its original equipment and infrastructure from the early 1970s, including the windows, ceiling tiles and floor tiles, and there's been no short-term or long-term capital improvement plan and no capital improvement money set aside. McMahon said there is a capital improvements list, but since he has been chairman, the nursing home has not been profitable enough to be funneling money into a capital improvement fund.