PAXTON — The elevator in the Ford County Courthouse is expected to be out of service for several weeks as upgrades and repairs are made to it.
The Ford County Public Building Commission last week approved moving forward with the project and contacting elevator consultant David Hardin to see what the next steps are to produce bid specifications for it.
“I don’t think we need to waste any more time to get this moving,” said Commissioner Mike Bleich of Gibson City, noting the immediacy of getting the elevator upgrades done before its next code and safety inspection in March.
Commissioners expressed concern about not only the urgency of completing the project but also its estimated $134,000 cost. To bring the cost down, they agreed to instruct Hardin to draw up bid specifications for a reduced scope of work that would include only necessary upgrades and repairs to bring the 23-year-old elevator up to code.
Commissioners also were concerned about the estimated time — up to nine weeks — that the elevator would be out of service. They asked Hardin if he could assist in developing a plan to keep the courthouse compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as that occurs.
Speaking with the commission via conference call, Hardin agreed to do so. Hardin also stressed that the nine-week disruption in elevator service was only a “conservative” estimate.
“You might get somebody who’s really a gung-ho elevator guy who can get that elevator done in four weeks,” Hardin said.
While they agreed to later consult Hardin on how to address the ADA compliance issues as the elevator is shut down, commissioners briefly discussed some ideas, including building a temporary “ADA-approved” ramp on the steps just inside either the front or rear entrance to the courthouse. Alternatively, the idea of installing a chair lift in either of those same areas was discussed.
The rear entrance is currently used by persons with disabilities to access the elevator, allowing them to avoid using any steps.
Installing a lift or ramp would allow those with disabilities to access the courthouse’s first floor but not the second floor. Because installing a lift or ramp to access the second floor seemed unfeasible, commissioners discussed the possibility of holding court in the first floor’s courtroom instead of the second floor’s courtroom as the elevator is shut down.
“We’ll have to find a way around it,” said the commission’s chairman, Ron Shapland of rural Cullom.
Commissioner Tom McQuinn of rural Paxton said the amount of “downtime” anticipated for the elevator is “scary.” McQuinn suggested requiring contractors to include in their bids how long they expect the elevator to be out of service. That way, the commission could use that information to determine which bid to accept.
“To me, if we had two bids and one of them was downtime of a week and the other was downtime of nine weeks and the price was close, I would be pushing to go with the quicker downtime,” McQuinn said.
Once a bid is approved, it is expected to take 20 weeks for shop drawings and the ordering of equipment to be completed, Hardin said. The elevator would then be out of service for several weeks.
The firm for which Hardin is employed — Kenneth H. Lemp Elevator Consultant Inc. of Valley Park, Mo. — inspected the elevator at the courthouse as well as the 27-year-old elevator at the nearby jail on Oct. 28. The firm is a consultant for Reifsteck Reid & Co. Architects of Champaign, which was hired by the commission to complete the inspections.
Hardin’s written inspection report said that, while the courthouse’s elevator appears to be running well and in fair condition, “a renovation of the elevator with new control components would be prudent.”
Hardin noted that the circuit boards on the control components are no longer produced. Also, there are “jumpers” on the controller — possibly installed “to allow the elevator to bypass a function that could not otherwise be repaired,” Hardin said — and the jumpers are not allowed and should be removed, he said.
“It’s a liability when it gets inspected; that’s not going to let it pass,” Hardin said. “It’s running with a liability right now.”
The elevator also appears to be leaking oil.
“It’s just the packing on the jack,” Hardin said. “With any new renovation, they’d want to put a new packing on there and get that fixed.”
There are also a few other code compliance issues, Hardin added.
While Hardin recommended a full renovation of the elevator, commissioners agreed to pare down the scope of work to save some expense.
“There’s no doubt that they’re picking every single possible thing apart here,” McQuinn said after Hardin reviewed the inspection report and his recommendations with the commission. “Some of them are ‘have-to’s,’ and some of them aren’t.”
The commission, meanwhile, decided to wait to pursue renovations to the jail’s elevator for an estimated cost of $112,000, citing a lack of funds to do both projects at once. However, Commissioner Tom Townsend of Gibson City suggested the idea of pursuing a bond issue to raise the necessary funds, and the commission agreed to explore that possibility further at some point in the future.
“We just need to keep an eye on it,” Townsend said.
The five-member commission made plans to schedule another meeting for later this month.
Also at last week’s meeting, with Commissioner Del Bruens of Paxton absent:
➜ The commission voted 3-1, with McQuinn in dissent, to advertise for bids for the construction of a new storage building/garage outside the jail.
➜ The commission voted 4-0 to approve a proposal from Medler & Richardson Builders Inc. of Rantoul to install a new door and complete associated work inside the public health department office in Paxton for a cost of $1,614.
➜ Treasurer Krisha Shoemaker said the commission had cash on hand totaling $353,688 after receiving $104,000 in revenue through its second property tax distribution of the year and making a payment recently toward its bond debt.