First reported 10/6/2009 1:52 p.m.

Just-discovered problems with the foundation of stairs leading to the World War I Memorial at Scoville Park will delay completion of its restoration until the spring, officials said Monday. This development scuttles a rededication ceremony scheduled for Veterans Day that was to have included Gov. Patrick Quinn.

Concrete supporting the stairs that lead to the 85-year-old monument is badly deteriorated and will need to be replaced, said Neil Adams, project manager for the Park District of Oak Park’s capital improvement program. Adams said Monday morning that the problem was discovered last week when workers disassembled the marble stairs for restoration.

“It crumbles apart in certain parts,” Adams said. His boss, Park District Executive Director Gary Balling, was a bit more blunt: “I can kick it apart with my foot.”

To discuss options, Balling, Adams and others from the park district met on Friday with conservator Andrzej Dajnowski, whose firm, Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park, is handling the restoration job that began this summer. On Saturday, park district officials they met with outside experts.

Park district officials don’t yet know what the additional costs will be. They’re waiting for an estimate from Dajnowski, who, according to Balling, had noted the possibility of additional challenges and related expenses when he bid on the work.

“We budgeted $240,000 for the best-case scenario,” said Balling, noting another $79,000 was approved for contingencies.

A 2006 engineering study found parts of the monument had become unstable, and that stairs had moved out of place, creating trip hazards. At that time, Dajnowski had cautioned that a full assessment of the condition of the granite stairs was not possible until dismantling of the monument was under way. He warned of “many hidden elements” in such restoration work, particularly with the resetting of stairs and large granite blocks.

Adams said the park district will also be working with a member of the project’s citizen focus group, historic preservationist Steve Kelly, for advise on how to proceed. Kelly is with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, a Northbrook-based architectural and engineering firm that works worldwide in analysis of repairs on historic structures. Adams said he expects park district staff to have a clear idea on how to proceed “in a week or two.”

“The bottom line is, we want to do the right thing,” Balling said. “It’s the first time in 85 years. We want to do it right. We believe everyone will be understanding.”

Adams said that while he’s certain the restoration work will be done by complete in the spring, he’s not ready to set a date. “It’s all weather-dependent at this point,” Adams said.

The formal rededication, which was planned for Veterans Day in November, is now expected in May during Memorial Day weekend. There still will be a ceremony at Scoville Park on Nov. 11 to honor war veterans.

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