Oak Park’s public works garage friendly to environment, not to village budget
Village employees Ken Crowley (left) and Tom Glenn help unload a television from a resident's car in May during an electronics drop-off event at the Oak Park Public Works Center. | J.Geil ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 6:04AM
OAK PARK — The village of Oak Park takes pride in noting its Public Works Center is “meticulously designed to be energy efficient, environmentally friendly and at home in its predominantly residential neighborhood.”
In 2009 the building was recognized by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as meriting an elite Gold rating.
But environmental sustainability isn’t the same as basic maintainability. Barely five years after staff moved into the $26 million, 155,000-square-foot building, the Oak Park village board authorized spending $324,000 on structural repairs.
The work is part of a $500,000 repair project recommended by a consultant to correct problems with stress cracks in the steels beams and concrete of the building’s first floor deck.
The village held back about $170,000 from final payments to the contractor, Mortenson Construction, but is on the hook for the rest of the costs.
Problems with the construction work were noted as early as 2005, while the building was still under construction. Cracks near some of the horizontal support beams were repaired by Mortenson.
But after staff continued to observe a growing number of new cracks and premature signs of wear in the new building, the engineering firm of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE) was retained in July, 2011.
WJE, which was paid $85,000 for the study, found numerous and extensive problems with the original construction work, including more than 100 inadequate welds and dozens of faulty channel brackets.
Public Works Director John Wieilibnicki said in a memo to the village board that the street level of the building’s garage area “is subject to heavy loads and vibrations on a daily basis, sometimes for 24 hour periods during storms.”
The recommended repair work includes installation of a new steel support beam, repair of numerous other beams, replacement of “de-bonded and unsound concrete floor topping,” crack-filling and installation of a vehicular traffic surface coating on selected surfaces.
The alternative work will include routing out and sealing 800 cracks, and sealing 520 of 800 joints identified by the WJE study. It will be done in two stages over the next two years, by Kovilic Construction Company, which was the low bidder.
Kovilic submitted a bid of $491,550 to do all the repair work recommended by WJE. An alternative bid, covering the minimum level of approximately two-thirds of work needing to be done was $324,620.
Wielibnicki said the remaining work, costing approximately $167,000, will be completed in the 2014 budget year.
“Considering the village is still in difficult economic times, the recommendation is to complete only the alternative bid work at this time,” Wielibnicki said in his memo.
He elaborated the next day. “Keep in mind there are differing opinions on what is correct design,” Wielbnicki said, noting that WJE’s design standards were “a bit more conservative” than Holabird and Root’s.
Village President David Pope said he and other officials have had conversations with both contractor Mortenson Construction and architect Holabird and Root regarding recovering costs for the repair work. They were unable to reach an agreement and decided to let the issue go and absorb the costs.
“There’s lots of folks pointing fingers in different directions at folks,” said Pope. “There’s not a whole lot of interest in accepting responsibility. We’re of the opinion (Mortenson and Holabird and Root) are responsible for it. They’re not willing to come forward and make good on it.”
Both Wielibnicki and Pope say they believe the planned repairs should be adequate.
Wielibnicki said he’s reasonably confident the authorized repairs will assure the building is safe for its designed uses. He said he plans to take a cautious approach, such as making sure public works staff don’t park more than two loaded dump trucks next to each other on the first floor parking deck to avoid load stress.
“Fixed? I think the answer is yes,” Pope said.