The Chicago Tribune
November 7, 2001
 
Delays beset Aurora fire museum
By Hal Dardick, special to the Chicago Tribune


In recent months, water has damaged the Aurora Regional Fire Museum five times, further delaying completion of its renovation, a city official said.

City spokesman Bill Catching blamed John Edward Construction of Downers Grove, the company that is renovating the building, for the damage. The city plans to submit a claim to the company's insurance agent, he said.

Jim Feld, the company's construction manager, contends the bulk of the damage was caused by a July storm. He says the city's insurance should cover the damage.

Water entered the building through temporary flashing on skylights three times during heavy rains in July and August, Catching said. Broken indoor sprinkler heads caused damage two other times, he added.

Feld, however, said nearly all of the damage was caused in late July when construction crews made a hole in the roof to install steel for a dome, then temporarily covered the opening with a tarp. Winds above 40 m.p.h. shredded the tarp, allowing rain to come in, Feld said.

"In a windstorm like that, it just didn't hold," Feld said. "I'm not sure what, if anything, we could have done differently that would have changed the outcome."

Damage from the broken sprinkler heads was minimal, and leaks through the skylight flashing allowed more water onto already damaged surfaces, Feld said.

Hardwood floors on the second floor of the building at 53 N. Broadway Ave. sustained water damage. "I believe the hardwood floors are irreparably damaged on the second floor," Catching said. "How do you value that?"

Feld said the damaged floors were not original, but the original floors were found beneath them. Whether they can be salvaged is not yet known, he said.

Meanwhile, John Edward Construction hopes its insurance company and the city can sort out which policy covers the damage. "Hopefully, in the next few days, that can get settled, and what's damaged can get repaired relatively quickly," Feld said.

When the City Council awarded a $755,000 renovation contract to John Edward Construction in March, it expected work to be completed by October.

Architects discovered support beams needed to be repaired, costing an additional $107,000, bringing the total project cost to $862,000, not including architectural fees.

Most of the work is being paid with a $750,000 Illinois FIRST grant. Additional costs will be borne by the city.

The extra structural work was partly responsible for the delay in completion, "but not enough to be at the point we are now," Catching said. He said city officials hope to reopen the museum by spring. Feld said he expects the work to be done in May or June.

Catching said John Edward Construction used the same superintendent for the museum renovation and the historic Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville, another project that has been plagued by delays.

City officials asked that a construction superintendent be dedicated solely to the museum work, and John Edward Construction complied, which improved the pace of work, Catching said.

Feld, however, said a full-time construction superintendent was not needed in the project's early stages, when work was minimal. He also said his firm still awaits architectural drawings from Dubuque, Iowa-based Durrant Group Inc., a firm the city hired.

Without those drawings of the front facade, which Feld described as "75 percent of the project," the renovation cannot be completed, he said.

The Regional Fire Museum opened 11 years ago. It houses antique firefighting equipment and displays photographs and articles about local firefighting history, all of which have been farmed out to other locations during the renovation.

Kendall County officials in August blamed a delay in the $2.8 million rehabilitation of the courthouse on John Edward Construction. Originally scheduled to be complete by July 4, the opening was pushed back to Labor Day, then postponed again.

Drywall and carpeting damage at the courthouse recently caused by heavy rains had nothing to do with the work of John Edward Construction, County Board member Bill Cote said.

Cote last week said he expected construction on the courthouse to be completed within two weeks.