The Watkins Community Museum of History is still many months away from completion of repairs to its roof.
In fact, according to a report from John Coffman, an engineer with CMR Construction who is overseeing the project, to the Douglas County Historical Society, procurement of the rare red slate used on the building's roof could take until the end of summer.
Coffman said the quarry where that slate is produced, in Granville, N.Y., just started producing the slate this week. It will take at least two months for enough slate to be produced for the roof to be repaired. The roof was damaged in a hailstorm about a year ago, April 23, 2006.
The engineer originally expected the insurance company to pay the costs of the repairs - and still says the insurer will eventually do that. However, the insurance company has told museum officials that it thinks the amount of roof in need of replacement is far less than what Coffman and other engineers say is necessary.
"The insurance company is trying to keep their costs down and limit their liability, which is fine, and we're trying to get the work done to the same quality as J.B. Watkins had done," Coffman said.
The insurance company initially offered $87,000 for the repairs it deems necessary. Coffman told the historical society that two inspections he ordered indicated that as much as a third of the roof may need to be replaced at a cost of more than $1 million.
The museum's insurance policy on the building at 1047 Mass. has a maximum payout per year of almost $1.4 million, with a $500 deductible.
"The tests conclusively backed up our case. What damage was done to this roof was caused by hail last year," Coffman said.
The insurance company has suggested that other factors, including rail and mule travel used to transport the slate in the 1880s when the building was built, may have led to some of the hairline fractures on the face of the slate.
The roofing material is not expensive to buy only now. According to letters from J.B. Watkins written at the time of the building's construction, he ordered that the building's roof be constructed of the "most expensive material possible." The building was built at a cost of $100,000, with $5,000 going to the roof.
"We're not asking anyone to pay anything (J.B. Watkins) didn't pay out of his own pocket 120 years ago," Coffman said.
The dispute between how much the insurance company has offered and how much the museum expects to spend eventually may be settled by arbitration or litigation.
The work to repair the roof has inspired the museum staff to take certain actions. Rebecca Phipps, the museum's director, has proposed a policy saying that the historical society would do anything in its power to use materials that match the building's original materials in "composition, design, color and texture." Phipps said the policy is based on standard from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The museum building is on both the national and Kansas registers of historic places.
"The staff and I are very excited by this roof process," Phipps said.
She said that the effort to replace the roof made it apparent that the historical society needed to recognize the building as one of its most significant aspects.
Coffman said that when construction is going on, much of the intersection at 11th and Massachusetts streets could be disrupted. Scaffolding around the building, elimination of parking spots and the movement of construction equipment could hamper efforts to drive in that area.