Five months hasn’t been enough time to determine what’s wrong with the cracking and crumbling public garage at Harlem and Ontario in Oak Park, according to the expert the village hired last year. The village board agreed on Monday, quadrupling the consultant’s original contract.

Back in September, the village discovered cracks forming in the upper floors of the west wing of Holley Court garage, a 2006 extension that was part of the Whiteco apartment-complex development. Oak Park hired the engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates to take a closer look at the million-dollar structure at a cost of $13,400.

But the assessment proved to be more complicated than originally thought, and the firm came back to the village in November, asking for another $25,000. Trustees approved a second change to the agreement on Monday, with no discussion, bringing the contract total to $53,400.

Calls to the consultant Monday were not returned immediately. But according to Cara Pavlicek, interim parking manager for Oak Park, the village is taking the problem seriously. When concrete starts cracking, water can seep in, freeze, and then cause the garage to crumble further, she said.

“This is a relatively young facility,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s pretty important that we know what’s going on and why we’re seeing these cracks at this point in time.”

Holley Court garage was first built in 1984. It’s been expanded several times to reach its current capacity of 1,213 spaces, including the west expansion, which was built in 2006 at a cost of about $13.4 million.

Paying $50,000 to look closer at the cracks is small potatoes when you’re talking about a garage that cost more than $20 million to build, Pavlicek said.

In the meantime, 72 spaces in the garage have been shut down to make way for the assessment. The engineering firm has not yet been able to determine whether it was a design error that led to the “severe cracking” in the garage, according to a letter to the village last month.

The consultant eventually plans to offer designs for strengthening and repairing the garage, work that will cost more than the $53,400 contract, according to their letter. Pavlicek hopes Oak Park can address any problems quickly.

“At this point in time, we want to be expeditious about doing this,” she said. “Yes, the clock has been ticking since September, but it’s been a hard issue to get our hands around.”

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