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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.