Pulaski Commissioners Green-light Halted Bell Tower Repairs

Pulaski County Commissioners Tracey Shorter, Kenneth Boswell, Michael Tiede

A very frustrated Jim Kuiper, president of Kuiper Masonry, Inc., vehemently assured the county commissioners last night that he is using the correct mix of mortar to repair the crumbling bell tower according to specifications for historic buildings.

County Maintenance Director Morry DeMarco had put a halt on the work being performed by Kuiper because of what he called a number of “red flags.” DeMarco said the first indicator that something was amiss with the repairs when he noticed Kuiper hauling mortar up to the tower, and when DeMarco asked for a sample of the mortar, DeMarco said Kuiper told him that the mix was not ready and he would bring DeMarco an appropriate sample. Further, DeMarco said he was uneasy with the repairs because Kuiper refused to grind out old mortar from several sections of wall in the bell tower that DeMarco felt needed to be replaced.

Kuiper explained to the commissioners and DeMarco that the mix he used was up to specifications for historic buildings, and he researched the topic for hours upon hours before performing the work. Further, Kuiper said the project ground to a halt when DeMarco refused to let him finish the work, despite the fact that only six feet of repairs on the tower was left to be done. He went on to emphasize that even if he did use the wrong mix – and he strongly expressed that he used the correct mix – the stress it would take on the building to remove the wrong mix would not be worth the damage, and the only reason he refused to grind out certain sections of old mortar was because it was too hard to grind and, therefore, did not need to be removed.

Commissioner Mike Tiede said he felt Kuiper should finish the work and get paid, and Commissioner Ken Boswell agreed, saying that without an architect overseeing the project, they would have to trust in the contractor’s ability to perform the work appropriately. Boswell said that as long as the company is using the right mix, there won’t be a problem. Since only six feet of work remains to be done on the tower, the commissioners approved a motion to allow Kuiper to finish the work despite DeMarco’s objections.