RANTOUL - Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum Executive Director Jim Snyder has $75,000 of new windows sitting in a storage room inside the museum.
Snyder would like to install the tinted windows to keep the building warmer in the winter and to protect books and documents inside the building from fading in the bright sunlight.
But those windows are going to have to continue to sit in storage.
State officials say the windows can't be installed because the building is part of a historic district.
The museum is in a part of Grissom Hall, one of several hangar buildings turned over to the village of Rantoul in 1993 when Chanute Air Force Base closed.
As part of the transfer of properties to the village, the federal government established a portion of the base as an historic district, according to Anne E. Haaker, deputy state historic preservation officer for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
The decade that followed found the museum struggling to pay its bills and to preserve its collection of old Chanute documents and artifacts.
Snyder said the village has been spending some $100,000 a year on utilities. A recent study showed the museum's collection is slowly deteriorating because of high humidity, and Snyder said many books and documents in the museum's library are slowly fading due to exposure from the sun.
In an effort to solve those problems, the museum's staff decided to replace the existing pre-World War II-era untinted windows with new tinted windows.
?These windows would help insulate our building to keep us warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer,? Snyder said. ?They could help cut our utility costs.?
In addition, Snyder said, tinted windows could prolong the life of books and documents in the museum's library.
While the museum didn't have the financial resources to pay for new windows, it got a $75,000 grant from the JELD-WEN Foundation.
JELD-WEN owns the Caradco industrial plant in Rantoul, which made 64 tinted windows to fit the museum's needs.
That's where the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency comes in.
Since Grissom Hall is in a historic district, state law requires approval from the preservation agency before any changes can be made to the building's exterior.
After preservation agency architect Mike Jackson inspected the building in April 2002, the agency determined in July 2002 that the new windows can't be installed.
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 required that the exteriors of buildings within historic districts not be changed. Because the new, tinted windows look different from the original Air Force windows, Haaker said, they aren't permitted to be installed.
Haaker said the state has an agreement with the Air Force to ensure that historic structures on the former base would be preserved.
?Under federal historic preservation guidelines, the historic windows should be retained if at all possible,? Haaker said. ?If the windows need to be replaced, they must be replaced in kind.?
?If we put in windows that were exactly the same as the ones the Air Force used, we'd still have problems with heating, cooling and humidity and our library documents would still fade,? Snyder said. ?It would defeat the purpose of everything we are trying to do.?
Haaker said it is possible to treat windows that look similar to the originals and still meet insulation, moisture reduction and light-reduction goals.
Rantoul Community Development Director and Environmental Review Officer Kent Tucker said the museum could have avoided this problem if it had asked the preservation agency to review the window replacement plan before it had Caradco build the new windows.
?The standard procedure would be to get permission from the state before doing modification to buildings within the historic district,? Tucker said. ?To make changes without first getting state approval is not a standard operating procedure.?
But Snyder said it is too late for that option.
?We've already spent the money and had the windows made,? Snyder said.
There's still hope the museum will be able to install the Caradco windows after all.
Rantoul Village Administrator Gary Adams said the village has appealed the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's decision to the federal government.
Adams said the village is able to make the appeal because the museum leases Grissom Hall from the village. The Air Force Historic Preservation Agency can reverse the state decision.
Air Force Maj. Sharon Spradling is reviewing the case and is expected to make a decision within the next several months, Adams said.