Wear and tear, or worse, at Oak Park's $30 million public works building?

Village paying consultant $27,000 to take a closer look at 4-year-old facility


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Show/Hide Gallery

By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

It was just four years ago that the Village of Oak Park opened its $30 million public works building, complete with automatic lighting systems and a green roof. Four years later, the building is getting a review to determine if it needs notable fixes or just the normal maintenance expected of a heavily used building.

A Northbrook-based consultant has been investigating the massive structure since January, logging about $13,000 worth of inspection. Now the company wants to dig a little deeper, raising the contract to $27,000, which would require approval from the village board.

With heavy trucks in and out of the building almost daily, there is heavy wear and tear, said Public Works Director John Wielebnicki. The village expected some maintenance would be needed every five years, he said, and none of the problems should be cause for concern.

"It's not cars driving through it, it's big trucks, so I would expect it's going to take a bit more of a beating," Wielebnicki said. "Which is why I figure every five years we need to do some repairs."

When the public works building was built in 2005, at 201 South Blvd., cracking and chipping was noticed around some of the beams, which the village had the contractor fix at the time. Fast forward to today, and the village wants to make sure those repairs have held up to the ravages of time, according to Wielebnicki.

Oak Park hired Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE) in January, under a no-bid contract, after the consultant helped oversee the original repairs. Some of the extended work they're requesting could include cutting slots in the bottom of several beams to inspect whether they were installed properly, according to a May 13 letter WJE sent to Wielebnicki.

The village board was set to approve the extended contract on Monday, but pulled it off the agenda at the last minute. Village President David Pope said he asked to delay approval because he wanted more information, including the scope of the review, and assurance that it wasn't going to be an "open-ended" commitment from the village.

Pope noted WJE is one of the best in its field, but he wondered if Oak Park should issue a "request for proposals" to gauge the market (the village is currently paying the firm between $60 and $275 an hour for a staff of 12).

Village Manager Tom Barwin thinks public works hopes to ensure the building lasts for a century.

"The management over there is just trying to stay on top of the maintenance of the building and be certain that we get 100 years out of it," he said, adding, "I don't think there's an eminent problem."

WJE is currently performing another assessment for the village. The firm has spent months and more than $60,000 to assess and come up with a plan to fix cracking and crumbling at the $13.4 million expansion of the Holley Court garage.

Reader Comments

23 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2011 1:09 AM

Might be that the $'s to finish the building properly were hindered by the fact that the village had just found out how much debt they faced. As I remember, it was 20004-05 when the OP budget hit the wall, well before the national recession.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 14th, 2011 12:35 AM

The building has been open for less than 4 years. Check out the glowing report about the facility on the Village's website. Public Works director John Wielebnicki is credited with overseeing the construction project. The building is described as "cutting edge" and "revolutionary". We are also told that "every aspect of the facility has to be considered in terms of its environmental impact and sustainability". Yet, here we are today having to hire experts to tell us what went wrong.

Editor from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2011 11:09 PM

This was a really nice public works building when it first opened. I suppose no one figured that it should have been built to last since it wasn't their money they were spending. You make the money personal, and you can be assured that they will get their dollars worth. "When the public works building was being built in 2005, at 201 South Blvd., some noticed a bit of cracking and chipping around some of the beams, which the village had the contractor and architect fix at the time" If the materi

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2011 7:34 PM

I am all for open purchase orders as long as everyone gets a chance to see all the invoice. Our board in Michigan approved "All" invoices for the month at the board meeting and the list was part of the agenda and available to the public in the minutes. TRANSPARENCY!!

Hockey Mom  

Posted: June 13th, 2011 5:17 PM

Yeah, we know about ear-marked funds. There are some things you learn spending all those hours sitting in ice rinks watching your kids skate in OTHER municipalities. There is too much ear-marked money, everyone spends what they have insted of overall community prioritization. It handcuffs good planning for our community. Who benefits from a fabulous public works faclity? Couldn't we just build an adequate public works facility and use the millions we saved being adequate for the park district?

Maggie from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2011 1:53 PM

They should have the same people who inspect private contractors that do remodeling projects in our homes inspect Village hired contractors. They think they know everything and then some. Get some reliable building inspectors to be project managers on Village projects. There are many ouf them out there.

Duncan Teeth from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2011 12:59 PM

To clarify a point to Ice Rink & Hockey mom...the Village and the Park District are two separate and distinct taxing bodies. The VOP's exploits with this public works building has no bearing on whether there are funds to rebuild RC. That's strictly the Park District's purvue.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 12th, 2011 11:15 PM

Enuf, I am not questioning the competence of the firms that receive no-bid contracts. The process should be open and competitive. Charges for outside legal counsel is just an example of why the Village needs to explore all options. Employees aren't getting salary increases and public services have been cut back. It seems reasonable to expect contractors and consultants to recognize the economic realities and offer concessions. Bang for our buck!

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2011 2:47 PM

WJE is one of the best firms in the business, and I have no problem with their no-bid contract. The PW building is basically a massive indoor, climate-controlled parking and maintenance facility, designed specifically for heavy trucks and vehicles. As the Taj-Mahal of PW buildings, it should not be experiencing anything that requires $27K in inspections. This is part of a pattern (Holley Court Garage, Lake/Forest Garage) that the village does not inspect and maintain their own buildings.


Posted: June 11th, 2011 12:40 PM

Someone may want to find out why the WJ building needed a new AC Unit on the roof. It looked as if it still was in its life span? Who's to blame?


Posted: June 10th, 2011 11:55 PM

I have a request for WJ. Do some research on other communities who have built new Public Works buildings or Police/Fire stations, new Village Halls etc and find out how much they spent and the status of the buildings. I believe we (taxpayers) have to pay another 25 years on this building. Don't blame the Village Board for everything. They are depending on their very well paid administration to be capable, competent and truthful.

Ice Rink Supporter  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 6:41 PM

Not $30 million. You forgot the consultant and the repairs! And no, there is no money for Ridgeland because the earmarked tax-dollars for LEEDs truck-homes is higher than active play areas for our children. Is this the same contractor who did that deck in this issue?

Hockey Mom  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 6:28 PM

Thirty million bucks for trucks? Where's our hockey rink?

Late Bloomer LOL ROFL  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 4:24 PM

Marty S.:This is so hilarious! You all might get a kick out of this but I have been reading this site for awhile thinking it was real Oak Park news! Haha, I just realized that your deadpan delivery really tricked me. I mean, no bid inspectors reinspecting what they repaired last time and then demanding more money! The "ravages" of time...good one. Are you connected to the people that do the Onion? because I think this stuff is better. Keep the laugh riot up, it really is entertaining.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 4:15 PM

The practice of awarding no bid contracts should be curtailed and used only in an emergency. Taxpayers deserve to know that public dollars are being spent thru an open and competitive process. A good first step would be in the selection of the law firms who provide outside legal counsel. I hope the trustees will consider that during their upcoming budget discussions.


Posted: June 10th, 2011 1:02 PM

While YES we all are! As long as its transparent. LoL


Posted: June 10th, 2011 12:44 PM

Are the village implyees posting in the comment sections?


Posted: June 10th, 2011 12:35 PM

Are WJ staffers posting in the comments sections?


Posted: June 10th, 2011 12:25 PM

That's right OP Rez, blame it on anything but the village. How predictable!

O P Rez  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 11:39 AM

Is this another alarming perception issue created by WJ or is it something that deserves attention to how it was built?

Oak Parker  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 10:46 AM

My question is why are all of the newer buildings needing to be fixed? Sounds like it was shoddy work in the first place.

Just a guy from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 10:07 AM

They need to inspect beams to see if they where properly installed? Who inspected the beams during installation? Oak Park? Funny how the city keeps paying twice for everything. No wonder it cost so much to live here.

Blago from Jail  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 10:03 AM

No bid contract, sweet.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad