The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 19, 2012

City believes earthquake damaged Memorial Hall

By Debby Woodin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin can add earthquake damage to its history of natural disasters.

City officials believe that a Nov. 6 shaker that was centered in Shawnee, Okla., rattled hard enough here to cause some big cracks in Memorial Hall.

The City Council will be asked on Wednesday to authorize a contract for engineering services to identify the extent of the damage and recommendations for repair.

Jack Schaller, the city’s assistant public works director, said that the building’s caretaker who does regular inspections of the building, along with maintenance duties, reported the cracks right after the earthquake, which was felt as a slight tremor here. If the engineering investigation bears out the city’s contention, it will be used for an insurance claim on the damage.

“That building is 90 or 100 years old, so there are always some cracks from age and settlement,” Schaller acknowledges. “But after that earthquake, the guy who works at the hall noticed some huge cracks, so it’s obvious there had been some significant settlement due to the earthquake.”

Added Schaller, “If slight cracks appeared, you’d know it had settled over time, but when it happens overnight, you know something caused it.” He said normal settlement or wear and tear has not produced cracks that size during the building’s existence.

If the council approves, a contract for $38,630 will be awarded to Allgeier, Martin and Associates to conduct tests and an evaluation. Those tests will include geotechnical probes, a seismic hazard analysis and an evaluation of soil conditions.

Geotechnical testing will be done to find out what the soil strength is at Memorial Hall to determine if there is a hazard for the building to settle excessively, Schaller said. The engineers also will asked to look at methods of stabilizing the damage and options for repair.

The hall is currently being leased by the Joplin School District as space for band classes and practices, and physical fitness activities. The damage does not put students at risk, he said.

“We have had several engineers look at it and structurally it’s in good shape,” Schaller said. “There’s no safety concerns. We just have to figure out how to remediate it and get those cracks closed up and see if we can keep it around another 100 years.”

The city will coordinate with the school district on any schedule to make repairs, Schaller said.

As for having an earthquake that followed a late winter blizzard that piled up nearly two feet of snow, an EF-5 tornado and a summer of excessive heat and drought, 2011 “will be a year that people won’t ever forget,” Schaller said.

Shake, rattle and roll

Other damage was observed in the area believed to connected to the earthquake. The city of Neosho attributes damage to its sewer and water lines to that cause.