AUGUSTA — The estimated cost to repair the broken elevator at Augusta City Center is going way down after municipal officials decided to part ways with a company that had been providing repair service for the last six months and had recommended an expensive modernization of the mechanical device.

Over the past nine months, the elevator inside the city building has broken down and stopped between floors, trapping people — including the mayor — inside at least briefly multiple times. Officials initially expected to modernize much of the elevator, at a cost of up to $100,000.

But after bringing in two additional elevator repair companies to examine the now out-of-service elevator, city officials believe the elevator doesn’t need to be modernized but instead just needs some of its controls replaced, and the work is expected to cost only about $6,000, according to Matt Nazar, development director.

He said the work is expected to be done either this week or next week and should take only a few days, after which the elevator will be put back into use.

Previously, getting the elevator working reliably again was expected to take about two months.

The initial estimate that $70,000 to $100,000 in repairs and upgrades were necessary to get the elevator going reliably again and to modernize it came from Casco Bay Elevator, the company that has maintained the elevators in Augusta’s city and school buildings.

Nazar said the city terminated its relationship with the company as of Wednesday.

Peter Ouellette, owner of Casco Bay Elevator, said Wednesday city officials asked his company to provide an estimate to modernize the elevator, so that’s what he provided. He said it was not his recommendation to modernize the elevator. He said city officials determined it needed to be modernized, out of frustration with the fact that it had broken down occasionally and hadn’t been fixed yet, so they asked him to estimate the cost of modernizing the elevator.

“They determined it needed to be modernized,” Ouellette, owner of the Auburn-based company, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think they were frustrated by the intermittent problem, and they wanted to change everything.”

Nazar said the city worked with Casco Bay Elevator for six months, attempting to have the company repair the city elevator each of the several times it stopped working; but each time the repairs were made, it didn’t solve the problem. He said after multiple attempts to have the contractor find the problem and repair it, city officials asked if a full modernization would fix the problem, and asked for an estimate. The company responded that a full modernization should solve the problem and provided the $70,000-to-$100,000 estimate to do so.

“He did not make the recommendation to complete the modernization, but also could not identify the problem with the elevator and therefore could not complete a less expensive level of repair that would actually repair the problem,” Nazar said of Ouellette.

Ouellette said when his company was called to fix the elevator after it briefly stopped working a few times in recent months, the elevator was already working again when the repair crew arrived. So it hadn’t been able to solve the intermittent problem, because when they were there, the elevator was working fine, he said.

“You’ve got to figure out the problem first before you throw parts at it,” said Ouellette, who said he has 28 years of experience in the elevator business.

City Manager William Bridgeo told city councilors in early February it was believed just about the entire elevator — other than the cab passengers ride in and the hydraulic ram that moves the elevator up and down — needed to be replaced with more modern equipment.

Since then, however, Nazar said the city had two additional elevator repair companies, both of which he said have decades of experience, inspect the elevator. They both identified the same problem with its controls.

“The two elevator companies we had review the elevator were able to identify the problem and are confident that a replacement of the parts they recommend will resolve the problem,” Nazar said Wednesday. “A full modernization was stated by both companies, independently, as unnecessary.”

The city has since contracted with Otis Elevator Co. to make the needed repair, for about $6,000.

Nazar said the two companies were brought in at separate times, so they couldn’t consult with each other, and both identified the same problem with the elevator, within a short period after hooking their computers up to it and running diagnostic tests.

“After two well respected, national elevator companies identified the same problem with the elevator, and our contractor did not identify the same problem, we lost confidence in our elevator contractor’s ability to adequately service the city and school elevators and repair the specific problem with the city center elevator,” Nazar said in an email.

Casco Bay Elevator has been under contract to service the elevators in the roughly eight city and school buildings, which have elevators, for about seven months, Ouellette said.

The City Center elevator, other than the times it briefly stopped working before being reset, was still in use until Feb. 16, when Nazar said it stopped working completely after some of its electronics failed.

Ouellette said he thinks whatever caused the elevator to stop working and not restart on Feb. 16 probably was a different problem than what had happened before. He said his company didn’t have a chance to fix it when it ceased working because the city called another company instead. He said if his company had been given a chance to fix the elevator after it ceased working, it could have fixed it.

The Dover elevator was installed when the building was constructed 30 years ago.

Mayor David Rollins is one of the people who, in recent months, became stuck in the elevator, for 10 or 15 minutes when it stopped between the first and second floors of Augusta City Center.

All three floors of the building still are accessible to people with disabilities or mobility problems, without the elevator. That’s because Augusta City Center has ground-level entrances on all three of its floors, including from the parking lot off Cony Street to the first floor, which includes the city code enforcement office; and off Arsenal Street, which provides access to the second floor, where residents register their vehicles and visit the city clerk’s office.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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