County looks at long-term maintenance

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Edgar County Board members can breathe a little easier when it comes to the status of the old courthouse elevator.

Board member Andy Patrick discussed the matter during the Nov. 26 board study session. Patrick was originally led to believe by a representative of the company maintaining the elevator that parts are no longer available and the failure of any part would require building a completely new lift. Things have changed since that initial report.

“I got a call from an elevator service in Terre Haute wanting to take a look at the elevator,” said Patrick.

That inspection confirmed parts are available to make repairs to keep the elevator in service, but eventually the cylinder in the basement that lifts and lowers the elevator will need replaced, and that will be costly.

“The elevator won’t drop. It will just get slower,” said Patrick. “He said we don’t need to do anything now, but we do need to start planning.”

Board member John Chittick said a priority is finding out the price of all options such as installing a new elevator in place or relocating the elevator and removing the shaft from the center of the rotunda of the courthouse.

The current elevator shaft fills what was originally an open space from the second floor to the basement. In the days before air conditioning and efficient interior lighting, the opening in the center of the courthouse contributed to airflow within the building and allowed light from a stained glass window in the attic to illuminate the interior.

Patrick made a point of visiting the Pike County Courthouse, which is a sister to the Edgar County Courthouse in design. The Pike County Courthouse still has the central opening with a stained glass window bringing light to the interior.

“It’s phenomenal when you walk in and see that visual,” said Patrick.

A stained glass window is still in place in the Edgar County Courthouse although it was painted over years ago and most likely in need of significant maintenance.

Board member Derrick Lorenzen is a strong supporter of relocating the elevator and getting rid of the center shaft, if it economically feasible to do so.

“If we go the route to move it, we need to get the community involved,” said Lorenzen.

Chittick raised the issue of fixing the exterior steps to the courthouse. He said while it appears the limestone steps are settling and dropping toward the ground, the exact opposite is happening. The steps are sitting on a metal support and rust from the support is lifting the steps out of place.

Attempts to caulk the gaps created between the steps have not stopped water from getting behind the steps and continuing to aggravate the problem. Chittick said a seemingly simple solution is to lift the steps with jacks, remove the rust and then lower the steps back into their original positions.

Lorenzen and Voigt informed the other board members of a bid opening by the Illinois Department of Transportation for work at the Edgar County Airport. Feutz Construction was the lowest bidder although the price came in 5 percent over what was anticipated.

Voigt said IDOT’s Division of Aeronautics had anticipated bidding would be higher than the original engineering estimates because of the delays in getting the project to bid.

Paris resident Robert Bogue filed protests with IDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration claiming the Edgar County Airport was not entitled to federal money for improvements. The protests delayed the projects as IDOT and the FAA reviewed the allegation. Both agencies eventually rejected Bogue’s argument, but steel prices and other construction costs increased in the meantime.

Lorenzen said another airport project is going to bid after the first of the year and the goal is to get the construction of both projects done during the 2019 building season. The work involves relocating the current fuel storage site, replacing the present fuel tanks with two 10,000-gallon tanks, installing a card reader for 24-hour access for fuel sales, expanding the ramp area and resurfacing the parallel taxiway.