Monday, March 30, 2009

contractor, contractor, contractor - architect...

After having four separate contractor companies come by and scratch their heads we’ve decided to hire an architect. He will be able to tell us what a civil engineer would tell us; if the project is feasible.

He came over on Sunday afternoon to take a look. He believes the poured concrete walls and new footings will do the job – oh, and a new garage floor. Yipes! I was not pleased to hear that. The idea of a full height second floor was considered an option, which makes me happy – I just want a usable space up there. This will be like a mini house.

He should have the initial sketches done soon, then we’ll need to get our survey done and then our contractors would have something to work with and we’ll be able to go in front of the township/village and get our plans approved and pull the permits. Once all that is done, our architect will draw up some blueprints and then all should be ready for the demo.

Project is slated to begin when we come back from France in June. Hope to have our portion of the demo done prior to our trip.

So far, the project has cost us $200.00; the first half payment for the architectural sketches.

Friday, March 20, 2009

first day of spring...

(Note damage to shingles on garage roof - photo taken fall 2007)

(Can you tell the garage is ever-so leaning? Photo taken this past winter - garage door had been removed already)

We’re in the process of getting estimates to have our garage torn down and rebuilt. The plan is to put a second story on the garage that can be accessed from the hill. A little extra “living” space.

The hill is the reason we need to get the garage rebuilt. It is essentially pushing it over. The garage was built into the hill on two sides; the west side and the south side (back). You can imagine the kind of force that the hill is putting on the garage walls.

It seems to us that the garage structure had been repaired in the past. Someone had added some structural columns.

Besides being pushed over, the roof is a mess. The shingles have been falling off since before we bought the house. There was a vine, I believe we were told it was hop’s growing on the roof when we bought the house and it was destroying what shingles were left. The gutter on the west side had been pulled off by the hop’s and was hanging by a string when we moved in.
(Moving in week 6 16 2005 - note vine growing on roof of garage)

Two years ago we had a local company come out and give us an estimate. At the time it was going to be $18,500. They would put piers in the hill and somehow support the garage wall by running something to those piers. We were planning on selling our other house in Clinton Township and with the profit from that house, build the garage. Well, as you know from previous posts and our current economic crisis; the Clinton Township house stood there looking pretty.

On to plan two; save the money.

So, we had two years and have sufficiently saved the money. The guy who estimated two years ago is no longer living in Michigan. So, we had to round up a new bunch of contractors to give us their opinion.

1st Opinion:

Even though the guy from two years ago has left Michigan, the company remains and so, the old partner, John came to give his estimate. We gave him everything that we had received from his partner; including the price that was quoted.

We had some additions to the original plan: different roof-line for porch going into the "living space". Metal roof. Flight of stairs inside the garage leading to the "living space" and the possibility of a retaining wall for the hill (so as to not push down the new structure). We were prepared that the updated estimate would be more than the last.

Well, John got in touch with a few retaining wall builders and had them evaluate that possibility. Then we all met earlier this week to go over the plan. Mostly the meeting was about the retaining wall and "drainage" issues. The chosen retaining wall builder, Cam felt the biggest reason that the garage was having this issue was water drainage. The idea was to make a large retaining wall made up of smaller sized boulders, all stacked up cascading away from the structure. The angle would be 4-5 feet at the bottom and nearly 10 feet at the top at a height from the garage floor to basically the garage ceiling. Also put in a bunch of drain tiles connected with PVC and then funneling down the driveway to drain in the street. Cam felt that the driveway was in such bad shape because of the water drainage issue as well. The cost for the retaining wall you ask?...$26,000. This does not include the garage, the second story or replacing the really crappy driveway. The garage will be an additional $21,000+ and we have no idea what the driveway will cost. Plus Cam wants to cut down two of our trees (one that is an old flowering tree and another that turns yellow in the fall) and with no guarantee that the garage floor will remain intact. Can you say "cha-ching" and FCUK no? This does not sound green to me...plus there is a squirrel nest in one of the trees...what will happen to the displaced squirrels?

We left John with the idea of hopefully looking at alternatives without a retaining wall.

We have another estimate with a different company on Monday evening. It will take a couple of weeks before the new guy has his plan. In the meantime or when the weather starts getting nicer, we're going to begin emptying the garage and start the demolition. We sort of already began the demo with the garage door during the Christmas break...it fell down halfway, and we took it the rest of the way. We plan to take down the top portion of the existing garage, hopefully saving as much reusable material as possible.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a touch of green...

In the little building that I work, we have 12 people now. We are a close-knit group, going out to lunch a couple of times a week and having little competitions.

I have mentioned the weight-loss competition in this blog before, but there are more contests than that going on here at the moment. We just finished one “guess what the repair estimate will be for John’s car”. This one had “Price is Right” rules where you needed to get as close to the amount without going over. The prize: you could ride shotgun in John’s car for a week when going out to lunch. Tony won.

The other one that is currently going on is a Stock Market Contest. This one will last a total of three months. You start out with $10,000 fake dollars and you do some virtual trading; picking your stocks and seeing what happens. The reason I picked today to talk about this is because all of the stocks I picked are GREEN stocks. And since it is St. Patrick’s Day today, I thought it would be as good a time as any to talk about this.

I invested mutually in: CREE (led lights), ABB (efficient electricity transmission and distribution), GE & ORA (geothermal).

By the way – I’m currently in second place!

P.S. – the third weight loss contest in also in progress – to be ending in 3 weeks. Let’s see what shenanigans (Irish word) these guys will pull this time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

dodged a bullet...

Thursday afternoon our boss came to BR2. He never, or should I say rarely does. Then asked one of our designers into the Program Managers office. The designer was laid off.

Not two minutes after the designer walked out the door, after saying his good-byes to everyone, that an email arrived in all of our inboxes at work.

It was an urgent email from our President. It stated that tomorrow (Friday the 13th), they would initiate an "R. I. F."...reduction in force. Yes, they used an acronym for laying people off!

Friday was a very dreadful day. Everyone was worried about who was going to be let go. Fortunately, the bloodletting happened early enough. By 9:30am, it was over. We lost another person in our group; a CAE guy.

By 2pm, all those who remained and who were invited to a 2pm meeting were told to breathe easier - we were essentially "saved". Go home. Get some rest and come to work on Monday refreshed and ready to work hard.

However, we were also told that there would be a couple of others that would be laid off on Monday, since they were unavailable on Friday to do so (they were on vacation, sick or something). We had 2 people on our team that were on vacation on Friday. We're all wondering if one of them will be leaving as well.

Sad what has happened to our industry ~ state ~ country ~ world. So many losing their jobs. Jerome and I were talking that it seems that companies should try to do anything apart from laying off, in order to keep everyone working. Otherwise it adversely effects everything. All these people that have been laid off cannot shop as much, cannot purchase the goods that we're trying to sell, can't find another job at this time. It's counter intuitive. They should possibly think of maybe taking away our 401k company contribution or maybe putting us on a 4 day work week. That would make it so that more people would be working, for 20% less pay, but you can adjust - and it doesn't have to be forever ~ maybe try it for 6 months.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2010 census...

I took the test for the census last month. Got 3 problems wrong :(. Didn’t think I would hear from them, but I was wrong (again :) ). They called yesterday while I was at work. The lady wanted to do a little telephone interview. I asked her if I could call them back on Wednesday after work because I didn’t feel comfortable doing an interview for another job at my current job and I had a doctor appointment after work that evening. She seemed a little surprised or annoyed, but after she asked when I received the call from them (today), she agreed.

Well about 15 minutes ago, they called again. So, I took the call and went into the shredder room. I was a little annoyed that they didn’t allow me to call them after work like I had asked yesterday.

The girl goes through her spiel and I answer yes to everything until they came to the mandatory 5 day training. The group of us taking our test last month were told by the lady giving the test that they would have this training available in the evenings. Heck, they want us to work in the evenings, why wouldn’t they offer the classes in the evenings too, right? Well, according to the girl on the phone; they don’t. So, I had to turn them down. She wanted me to take a week off work from April 13-17. Oh well...$16 an hour, .55 a mile, 4-6 weeks after work next year to be a numerator, gone.

I’m a bit bummed and I think that is poor planning on their part but I'm not giving up without a fight. I will be calling them back this evening to discuss it further with someone else that may know something more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chauncey C. Adams...

If you could only hear my high-pitched scream of amazement. Well, you probably wouldn't, because I'm not a very overtly emotional person,...but if I was, it may have hurt your ears. I must say that this research has been extremely successful. It's so nice that so many would take the time out of their day to call, email or send a letter. People that I feel a bit of a kinship with, since we have shared the love and hard work of this house.

Spoke to Dorothy Adams today. She is the wife of Chauncey (Chuck) C. Adams. She was responding to my letter about the house and calling from Bremerton, Washington.

She didn't know that Chauncey was on the deed and thought that possibly the deed was referring to her Father-in-law; Chauncey’s father - whose name was also Chauncey. However, Chauncey Sr. passed away in 1942, so she was unsure if he could be on a deed. The Adams lived at 136 Minot Street in Romeo.

Chauncey, who didn’t like going by that name, since it was a “sissy” name, was the little brother of Bertha; that is how they are related. He graduated from high school in 1940. He went to U of M, Ann Arbor to become a pharmacist. He was a Naval Officer for 23 years.

Dorothy, a nutritionist, met Chauncey on Valentine’s Day, 1946 in Seattle at a party that she and some co-workers put on for the young Navy Officers. They were married the next year. She and Chauncey had spent two weeks of their honeymoon in the house in August 1947. They were house sitting for Earl, Bertha and family while they were on vacation. She confirmed to me that already at that time the facilities were up and running and that it was a newer house.

Earl and Bertha had children; Emily, Susan and Sam. Susan is the oldest daughter and Dorothy will have her send me an email. Susan was 12 or 14 when they lived in the house.

Chauncey and Dorothy lived in Ann Arbor for 9 years from 1970-1979; until Chauncey slipped on the ice and said, “we’re out of here”. They had seven children.

With this latest connection, it only leaves the Nordmans' and the Stones'. I wonder if I'll ever hear from them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

nearly 3 years to the day...

...and I can say we are, for the most part, done!

Not sure you can tell the difference between this picture and the pictures from before, but this picture has the molding in the squares and around the fireplace face. Also the toe molding around the hearth.