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Editorial: Get the Summit House open

After the Gazette published a report about problems with a product known as TimberSIL Glass Wood — billed as both environmentally friendly and durable and chosen for use in the delay-plagued Summit House renovation — somebody apparently got the message.

State officials and boosters of the region’s signature sightseeing venue — the Summit House atop Mount Holyoke in the J.A. Skinner State Park — have been dismayed that a third summer is passing without Valley residents having the opportunity to take in the glorious view from the former 19th century hotel.

They’ve been angry that officials with the company that makes the product that is at the heart of delays in the problem-riddled renovation had not responded to complaints and requests for redress.

That changed last week when state officials said they finally received a call from officials at Timber Treatment Technologies of South Carolina, the maker of TimberSIL, promising redress.

What is important now is that the problem get fixed as soon as possible.

The project includes safety and accessibility improvements such as a handicapped-accessible ramp, fixes to the porch, improvements to bathrooms and picnic areas, repairs to the road and parking area and fresh paint for the Summit House, a popular viewing area.

For the duration of the project, though the grassy area to the side of the Summit House has been open for picnics by visitors, the building itself has been closed.

Beset with problems since 2010, when costs were underestimated, the project has also encountered the unexpected presence of ledge, which led to construction delays and a higher pricetag.

The latest problem was revealed this summer when officials said the already revised completion date would be missed because the TimberSIL product was failing to hold paint.

That delay adds another $100,000 to the cost of the project, pushing it over $1 million from its original estimated $600,000 cost. State officials may opt to rip out much of the porch to replace it — a consultant advised that the TimberSIL product is unsuitable for the conditions on the mountain.

When reached by the Gazette, a company executive with Timber Treatment Technologies pledged to find a solution that would ensure the Summit House opens. But officials with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and its contractor on the project, told the Gazette that they had no luck getting a response from Timber Treatment representatives.

It should be noted that the Summit House project is not alone in reporting problems with TimberSIL. One Northampton homeowner said a raised garden bed created with TimberSIL rotted and warped within four years — and a Vermont retailer has stopped selling it, citing customer complaints.

Reports like those beg the question of whether it is in the state’s interests — and the public’s interest — to use this product.

The state may be pondering whether this is indeed a company it wants to negotiate with — or whether it should it cut its losses and move on to something else. The public deserves a solution that gets the Summit House open as soon as possible. Yes, another summer has nearly passed, but the best views — fall foliage — are still ahead. If nothing else, those breathtaking views can still be salvaged.

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