As we come out of winter and into spring it is past time for updating the Alumni as to the status of the fraternity and alumni association. I started writing this on March 30th and now it’s Cinco de Mayo. Time flies, and not always in a good way.
The Fraternity and Active Brothers
This spring semester finds us in a difficult situation with only 11 brothers living in the house. With 5 empty rooms our operating income is down $12,000. The good news is, it was a mild winter and heating costs and snow plowing really was not too bad. The brothers have done very well this spring semester after having only 2 Gators in the fall, we had 9 Gators in the spring pledge class. Out of the 9, 8 are second semester freshmen, so they should be able to contribute a great deal as they pursue their degrees.
In looking at the pledge class geography, Fall 2020 gave us 2 Brothers, one each from Staten Island, and Fulton, New York. This spring semester we have 3 who list their home as being in Rockland County and one each from Buffalo, Albany, Middletown, Cold Spring, and Long Island. The S21 pledge class are now officially Brothers. Congratulations to both the Fall and Spring semester pledge classes, we the alumni look forward to getting to know you and working with you to uphold the fraternal traditions at the house of blue!
We will be wrapping up the large north Wall project started in the fall semester during this summer. The last items to be ordered were the exterior columns. We could not save the original wood columns due to excessive damage and decay. The new columns are a resin/fiberglass/marble dust composite that will be dead ringers for the originals- 14” diameter fluted columns with Roman Corinthian capitals. Only downside is the new columns will tip the scales at approximately 500 pounds. So the installation will be a bit tricky. We have Brother Matt Mahan who has volunteered to bring up equipment to help us lift these into place. Game plan is to have these delivered from the factory to Oswego in June or July and then coordinate the painting and installation on the north face of the house. We will be ordering enough columns to replace all the ones around the dance floor and kitchen storage areas. With shipping costs around $1700, we thought it would be wise to order all the replacement columns at the same time, even if we are not quite ready for all of them. If you recall from the last newsletter, there was additional rot located behind the kitchen, but rather than continuing to expand the project with winter fast approaching, we tabled that part for this summer- I’ll refer to this as “Phase 2”. See additional projects list in this newsletter.
The work on the Cave is now complete. The existing floor was tightened up and leveled, a new subfloor glued and nailed and a vinyl composition tile (VCT) floor was glued down. Four coats of floor finish were mopped down. The sheetrock finishing was financially completed, primed and painted white. Our contractor who is working on this now was also able to replace multiple broken and loose tiles elsewhere on the third floor and it looks so much better!Included below are three photos of the work in progress. These show the floor leveler, new subfloor plywood and new tiles. I forgot to snap some photos of the fully painted walls and waxed floors. (next time)
Additional Projects List
Phase 2- North wall behind the kitchen
As previously mentioned, the beams at the floor level and ceiling level of the north wall were found to be much more extensive and what we could see initially. While the worst damage was on the East part of the north wall, the rot extended to the north wall at the rear of the kitchen storage area. We did end up with extra LVL Beam material to do behind the kitchen. However, we did not have the architect include this area in his original estimate, since it did not look to be as bad as it was. The contractor-Joe Ruggio- we are using for all these projects is an honorary brother whose son (also a Brother) graduated a few years ago. He has treated us very fairly so far and I can’t tell you how nice it is to have someone you can trust to work on the house without charging several arms and a leg to get the work done. So even though the architect did not include all the columns in his estimate, careful spending and a good contractor who is being very fair with us allows us to pay for all 12 columns at the same time without raising more money for columns. We initially thought that once the dance floor wall was done that we could move forward to install all the new columns at once. We now know that we need to disassemble the wall behind the kitchen and replace the rotted wood with new, rebuild the original 6 window openings, build correct soffits, and trim the exterior totals $12000 (materials and labor)
These next items could be considered additional “phases” since they all are joined to the previous work by location and similar issues and problems.
Phase 3- East side Dance floor wall
Demo old columns and any rotted wood, check for soundness against additional rot on the East wall, build out new soffits. Estimate of costs-$3,000.00
Phase 4- Exterior wall on the Fishbowl
Also on the North side of the house. This area has been holding back the weather off the lake for 173 years, of which 64 years have been in our possession, but I was still surprised when Joe showed me the rotted wood. It was weathered in for the winter, now we need to address the rot- hopefully this summer? Estimate of costs-$3,000.00
Phase 5- Flat roofs
We really could use new roofs on both exterior 2nd story flat roofs (off of the Presidential and Alligator rooms) as well as the roof over the Fishbowl. Since these have had numerous patch jobs over the years the tear off and reroof may be quite extensive. We are in the process of getting quotes from roofers as well as possibly having Brother Brian Van Alstyne take a look at these. Brian has led the efforts for both the last two major roof replacements. Costs- TBD
Phase 6- New Code-compliant Handrails around the Flat Roofs
Brother Todd Chase is leading the effort to put significantly sturdier railings on these areas making sure that these are code compliant. Todd will be fabricating these out of steel in spare time at his day job running a welding shop. Todd is having his CAD designers prepare working drawings from his measurements. Todd is donating his time and we will only pay for materials. As soon as the numbers are known I’ll share with the group. Costs- TBD
The next two items are not really related to the preceding “phases” but it does make sense to identify all the potential projects for fundraising and common talking points.
Phase 7- New exit to backyard
Several alumni have asked about opening up one of the doors that used to go out to a back porch on the west side of the house near where the old garage was. The “new” door would replace the sealed up door at the end of the hallway outside of the kitchen. Then in the future the intention would be to pour a concrete patio in the back to encourage outdoor activities to be away from the general line of sight of our neighbors. In addition to the aforementioned items we would need to plant some arborvitae to screen our area from the two adjoining neighbors yards. Todd is also having a steel landing designed so it can be fabricated for this project. Costs for these items are being gathered so we can share the possible projects with our members and then we can tackle jobs as we raise funding. Brother Peter DeMarco has already donated $500 to get the prep work for a small concrete pad for a new exterior landing and staircase started. The landing will be 48 “ off the ground so all work needs to be code compliant for building permits and inspections. Costs- TBD
Phase 8- Concrete patio
In order to level out the ground and delineate the new hangout area, the general thought is to have a concrete pad poured. Brother Travis Anderson has recently started a partnership in a Stampcrete business in the Rochester area. He is very interested in helping us out and has quoted us a good deal on a 30’x24’ broom finished pad. Estimate $7,200
Phase 9- Full painting of exterior woodwork
Although we started painting exterior woodwork last summer at our alumni work weekend, there is an awful lot of wood left to be painted. A tremendous amount of the wood is three stories up- the eaves and soffits. I had one painting contractor come out and give us a quote. The first quote came in at $15,000. I am meeting another contractor this Saturday to see if I can get any better numbers. While we encourage and expect the current brothers to help with low tech things like painting the size and height of the house makes it hard for them to do the whole house. Ask any of the alumni who were scraping and painting last summer and they’ll tell you it looks pretty easy, UNTIL you start scraping and painting. Second quote arrived today $8,500
Phase 10- Repointing of masonry
This job has been ongoing over the last few summers. Our regular go-to guy Joe started his career as a mason and he has done about 10-15% of the house so far. Very labor intensive, with scaffolding needed to be assembled and moved constantly to allow safe access to the problem areas. I’ll be asking for quotes as soon as he can look it over. Estimate $3,000
Phase 11- Montcalm Street Porch
Many alumni over the years have asked about replacing the covered porch that once covered the entryway from the Montcalm side of the house. At one point we had asked our architect to give us some feedback on costs from his end on drawing up plans and helping with building permits related to this project. Initial estimates were right around $5000 in building documents needed for permits before building can start. With building materials going up 50-100% since Covid started I expect the numbers on this project to be fairly high. As soon as I can get a ballpark I will share with everyone.
Please keep the following in mind
I realize that some may think that there are several items on the list above that could be tabled for future. I would not disagree. I’m always willing to talk to any of the Brothers about the house and renovations planned or needed. We try to do things as logically as possible and in ways that bring the most benefit to the house and the fraternity. My cell number is 315-416-7850, and my email is “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Call or email at any time.
Any and all money donated goes directly into the house. Whenever possible we try to incorporate the active Brothers into the work being done so they can help defray some of the labor cost, and build their home ownership skills. They all can learn alot from our alumni as we work alongside them. I am currently interested in any alumni who would be able to manage a group during any of these activities mentioned in this newsletter. Tentative date for alumni work weekend is July 22-24 (Th-Sat). There’s lots to be done around the house. It really helps having a bunch of psyched alumni around telling stories & remembering days of old, and the actives love hearing the stories while working on the house. Some cold beverages and food at the end of the day is a good time as well. There will be a good number of the active Brothers up to work alongside us.
Wonder if we should name the event??? “Toolfest 2021” What's your thought on a cool name? (I’m not that creative)
Several Brothers have asked about having a pledge class fundraiser challenge. Trying to get all (or most) of your pledge class to make a donation and see which pledge class has the most psych (and disposable income)! I am game to help anybody who is interested in helping our wonderful house and organization improve and prosper.
In place of the alumni weekend, which was canceled, there are a number of Brothers who have decided to still come to Oswego June 11-13 to check out the house and enjoy the summer CNY weather. I’ll be around on Friday the 11th but have a wedding on Saturday about 3 hours away that I must attend. I am asking Gary Maher to conduct an alumni meeting in my absence and hold Alumni Association Officer elections. I will be stepping down as Association President, but will remain as someone who loves the house and who can help monitor the physical plant and coordinate repairs going forward. Our Alumni association is very much like our pledge classes, only as strong as the weakest person. We have many alumni who can assist and help motivate the active Brothers at 8 Montcalm.
If you would like to contribute to the efforts at the house, you can always do so here: https://www.sigmatauchi.org/donate