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Town Hall needs work on its antique gutter system

LAWRENCEVILLE - With its wraparound porch and wooden rocking chairs, Braselton's Town Hall serves as a tie to the blossoming burg's sleepy past.

Unfortunately, things are happening just beneath the surface - the surface of Town Hall, that is.

Rainwater is leaking from a unique gutter system that lies under the 97-year-old building's metal roof and runs within its walls.

Initially, town officials thought there was a hole in the roof, but after experts inspected the water-damaged areas, they determined the gutter system was at fault.

"We couldn't figure out where the water was coming from," said Town Manager Jennifer Scott. "It started as a small leak, but it kept getting worse and worse and it caused wood damage to the back of Town Hall."

The town is taking steps to fix the problem, but finding a company to make the repairs wasn't easy.

After all, how many contractors have experience repairing a historic building with an antique gutter system?

Dozens were contacted and several looked at it, but only two had the necessary credentials, Scott said.

Earlier this week the

Town Council appropriated $230,000 for the repairs that will be made by Peachtree Construction Services of Decatur, which was the lowest bidder.

The company must remove the metal-tiled roof so it can access the internal gutters, but the work will be done piecemeal so only part of the roof is disturbed at any one time.

"The internal gutters were originally metal lined," Scott said, "but over the years they were replaced by a rubber membrane and that has failed. We are going to go back and line all the gutters with metal again."

The Greek Revival structure was built by members of Braselton's founding family around 1909 - about seven years before the town itself was formed.

In 1995 the town purchased the home and three years later it began its new life as Town Hall.

People are attached to Town Hall because of its character, said Braselton resident Mary Stover, who moved northward from Gwinnett seeking a slower pace of life.

"It's neat. When you go to Town Hall you don't expect an old house. You expect to see a typical governmental building," Stover said. "It has that warmth, that charm that says, 'Come in and sit a spell.'"

Stover lives in the Braselton-Stover house - one of three homes built by members of the Braselton family in the early 1900s.

Located along Interstate 85 in the far northeast corner of Gwinnett, Braselton's growth is picking up speed, but there are no plans to build a new town hall, said Mayor Pat

Graham.

A new police station is being built next to Town Hall, which will let the 14-member department move out of two former bedrooms located on the second floor of Town Hall, Graham said.

Scott, the town manager, said she likes working in a historic structure, especially during the Fourth of July when it is decked with red-white-and-blue bunting.

"My husband and I live in a farm house built in the 1850s, so I move 50 years into the future when I come to work," Scott said.