Historic Thomas Center will be fumigated for termites


In this April 17, 2012 file photo, University of Florida civil engineering major Eva Strickland searches for a spot on the lawn of the Thomas Center in Gainesville. The Thomas Center will be tented for termites.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.

In a few months, the iconic tan stucco facade and clay tile roof of the Historic Thomas Center will be covered by a tent.

The city plans to pay $106,000 to fumigate the circa-1910 landmark and combat a recurring problem with swarming termites before there is structural damage.

Located at 306 NE Sixth St., the city-owned Thomas Center has been on the National Register of Historic Places for 40 years.

Gainesville spokesman Bob Woods said there are dry wood termites in the attic. The city has been conducting spot treatments but now plans full fumigation to rid the two buildings of the wood-destroying insects, Woods said.

"It is not an emergency," Woods said. "They are doing this as a precautionary measure. There is no structural damage at this point."

As part of the consent agenda for the Sept. 5 meeting, the City Commission is scheduled to vote to award a $112,000 contract for termite fumigation to Southern Fumigation and Pest Control/Dr. Buggs. The two companies submitted a joint bid. It was the only bid on the contract, which also includes $6,000 to fumigate the Wilhelmina Johnson Community Center at 321 NW 10th St.

Combined, the Thomas Center and the Wilhelmina Johnson center have undergone 13 spot treatments for termites over the past two years at a cost of $500 a pop, city staff said.

The fumigation to combat the infestation will begin in November, City Manager Russ Blackburn said during a recent meeting.

While the city is spending six figures to rid the Thomas Center of termites, facilities staff said there is no guarantee the insects will not return.

"Dry wood termites live in wood and not in the ground like subterranean termites," a facilities staff report said. "They spread when they swarm and lay eggs. A swarm from the outside could very easily infiltrate the facilities and cause the problems to reoccur. The area in which the Thomas Center is located is notorious for having dry wood termites."

Located in the heart of the city's Northeast Historic District, construction of the Thomas Center began in 1906 as the private residence of Charles W. Chase, according to the Alachua County Historical Commission. Maj. William Reuben Thomas purchased and completed the building in 1910 as his home. Thomas was a prominent local businessman and a mayor who was instrumental in persuading the Legislature to locate the University of Florida in Gainesville, the Historical Commission notes.

Construction began on an expansion that became the Hotel Thomas in 1926. The city purchased the property in 1974 and commenced a five-year renovation project, according to the Historical Commission.

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