Environmental, utility costs boost Public Works price tag

? The new center will cost $20 million to build. But, trustees learned last week, an additional $5M is needed for environmental cleanup and utility relocation.

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With most of the attention up until now focused on the $20 million cost of constructing a new public works center for Oak Park, a committee of current and future Oak Park trustees heard last week that an additional $4-5 million will be needed for environmental remediation and relocation of utilities at the South Boulevard site.

While Public Works Director John Wielebnicki said a total cost in the $25 million range has been discussed, some trustees expressed surprise at the price tag attached to environmental and utility costs.

"I don't recall it being that high. If it was in the earlier conversations, I missed it," said Trustee Robert Milstein. He said he planned to follow up with staff and to review his previous reports on the subject. He also cautioned that the village still needed "to get a guaranteed construction price" from the builder.

Trustee and President-elect David Pope said, "We knew there were going to be some added costs associated [with the project]. But that was the first time I heard a number put to it. That was the first time a number had been privately or publicly articulated. It was somewhat more than any of us had expected to hear. And right now I'm not putting a lot of stock in that number."

However, said Pope, "We've got to build a building. And it's a lot of money. No one is feeling that it's not a lot of money. We're in a situation where we have to do something. Even the least expensive retrofits we looked at [for the current buildings] were expensive."

Milstein remains enthusiastic about the project and is confident in the village's ability to finance its construction through the sale of bonds. "[Village Finance Director] Greg Peters, along with [Village Manager] Carl [Swenson], has been very effective in paying down debt early. We're going to be able to do this building just fine. And with very minimal impact on taxes."

Pope agreed that the bonding capacity is in place to finance the project.

Wielebnicki said Monday, "We focused on the building proper. We've said, '$20 million plus remediation and utilities.' We've ballparked those [costs] at $5 million."

The village's public works center has long been eyed for major renovation or replacement. A fire last summer which destroyed one of the buildings on the site at South Boulevard and Lombard Avenue, hastened the decision to rebuild from scratch. Now, Village Attorney Ray Heise told a special meeting of three holdover trustees and three incoming board members last Wednesday, concerns over maximizing insurance reimbursement from the burned-out building necessitate that the village move fast to start new construction. "We need to get into the ground this summer or the insurance company will push for actual cash value vs. replacement cost. That could cost the village several hundred thousand dollars."

Getting into the ground means first relocating all staff and facilities, a process Wielebnicki says will be complete by Aug. 1. The environmental remediation and utility work will follow immediately, he said.

Already the village has had 40 to 50 soil boring samples taken from locations across the two-acre site to determine the type of materials they will find when excavation begins. "I can't give you a range of what we found. But there is a fair amount of impacted [i.e. contaminated] soil." All such soil must be transported to either a special landfill designed for such contamination or a site with an incinerator which would burn the soil. "That's really the cost" of the remediation, he said. He estimated the soil remediation process will cost approximately $2 million.

Wielebnicki said the fuel tanks placed underground during the village's decades of ownership of the site are not leaking. Previous tanks, holdovers from years when the site housed several commercial ventures, including a dairy and a car dealership's body shop, have long since been removed, he said. There may have been some contamination from those previous uses, he allowed.

The site also contains a welter of public and private utility lines. "We have two water lines, a sewer line, ComEd, Nicor, phone and cable," he said.

Because the new building will completely enclose the site and have a full basement, excavation will reach 20 feet into the ground. That necessitates relocating all the utilities. Wielebnicki said some utilities run east and west along South Boulevard. But some run north and south along what used to be Lombard Avenue. When public works moved to South Boulevard in the 1970s, a portion of Lombard was closed but the utilities were never relocated.

Wielebnicki said his department is having "a weekly conversation with ComEd" to attempt to keep them on target for the short timetable needed for construction. "It's going to be a tight schedule. Is it doable? I think it is."

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