Continuing Adventures of FICO

Fico, Baba and The Spire.

Fico (your friendly personification of the finance committee) is all excited and eagerly looking forward to Thursday 24th February 2017.
The story begins a long time ago when Baba was about 5 years old. Baba’s family used to bring him to Our Lady of the Wayside for Sunday Mass and not long after the new church was opened, Baba remembers standing mesmerised by the baptistery. There was the tinkling water playing from the fountain into the pool of water surrounding the font and there was the light coming in through the stained glass windows and reflecting off the water. Baba will never forget the sense of wonder he felt at that moment.
Baba grew up to love buildings and after getting a GCSE in buildings he became a Buildings Surveyor. So it was natural that in 2015, when Fico wanted to find out the state of repair of the church, the other buildings on site and its grounds, that he would turn to Baba to ask his help. Baba did his inspection and gave Fico the Quinquennial report. There was a lot to do. Baba’s rough estimate was that there was about £250,000 worth of work needed, which is where Fico gets this figure from.
However, Baba was not able to give an expert opinion on the spire which is made of fibre glass (or Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) as the professionals like Baba call it, and Baba is very professional). This left Fico with a problem. Simply put, the spire is 50 years old. How do we know that it will not fall down next week on Fr Gerardo, dent his car and give him a terrible headache?
So Fico asked Baba to find a specialist who could inspect the spire and answer this important question. Baba did so and in May of 2016 and £720 later, Fico had the report on the spire. It was no good. In fact it was useless. It did not answer the question about whether the spire would collapse on poor Fr Gerardo at all.
Luckily, by this time, Fico had also been able to establish contact with a big international firm of Civil Engineers (Fico knows some important people), who said that they would come out and inspect the spire for free. Hurray.
So during the autumn of 2016 we had two visits from the important civil engineering company. This meant that we had to put up scaffolding in the baptistery so as to provide access into the turret underneath the spire itself and then through the hatch in the base of the spire into the spire itself. They told us that work was needed to the steel frame of the turret but nothing else. No report, no schedule of works etc. Fico was despondent.
Then Fico discovered an email that he had received from Stone Technical, a firm of engineers in Darlington, who do repair and maintenance on all sorts of important building in Britain, including Winsor Castle. This email was a reply to a previous email that Fico had sent in June 2016 about inspecting the spire but had missed. It said “Yes, we can inspect your GRP spire”. Not only could they inspect the spire but they could also organise their own mobile platform for inspecting the outside of the spire (Fico calls these cherry pickers, people like Stone Technical and Baba call them MEWPs, Mobile Elevating Work Platforms). And all for a cost of about £1,300; Fico had been guessing about £2,000.
Of course, the use of the cherry picker, opps, sorry, the MEWP, means that the inspection will have to be when the school is shut as we cannot block access to the school during term time. And that is how we have the spire inspection taking place next week during half-term. Fingers crossed!
Stone Technical will produce a report and will offer a price to do all the remedial work on the spire. If the price is less than £10,000, then after having got approval from the Archdiocesan Historical Churches Committee, (next meeting 19th April 2017,) Fico will be able to authorise it himself. If more, then Fico will also have to ask the Archdiocesan Treasurer for approval. This may mean asking for two more quotes for the work. Groan, it is never easy, but Fico tries to remain positive.
Baba, who was embarrassed by the poor report on the spire given by someone whom he had recommended, has said that he would like to send a copy of the Stone Technical report to the specialist and ask for a rebate on the £720 for the church. That is a nice thought.
When the spire is done, then Fico will ask Baba to organise the rest of the repairs to the church roof as identified in the Quinquennial of 2015. This also will need approval by the Archdiocesan Historical Churches Committee and the Archdiocesan Treasurer. Still if we are lucky, we could see both the Spire and the Church Roof completed for May/June of this year.
And when the Spire and Church Roof are done, then we can proceed with the planned works to the front and side of the church; but that is another story.
And Fr Gerardo won’t have worry any more about getting a headache or dent in his car.