Elevator malfunction forces office rearrangement
DANVILLE – Some employees and visitors at the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex are getting exercise this week walking up and down stairs, because the four-story building's elevator is out of order and will be for several weeks.
Maintenance employees discovered last week that the nearly 50-year-old elevator was leaking hydraulic fluid, so it's been shut down while county officials seek bids for its repair or replacement, according to Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon.
The equipment failure means today's 6 p.m. Vermilion County board meeting will be held across the street from the annex, on the second floor of Old National Bank at 2 W. Main St., Danville. At that meeting, McMahon will seek a $75,000 emergency order from the board toward the repair or replacement of the elevator.
McMahon said the two companies with the ability to repair or replace the elevator have already looked at it, and one has submitted a bid. McMahon hopes to know in a few days the estimated cost of repair or replacement when he gets another bid. McMahon said replacement versus repair could depend on whether parts for the elevator are available, considering its age.
Last year, the elevator motor burned up, smoking up the basement of the annex at the base of the elevator shaft. The motor was replaced at a cost of about $12,000, according to Auditor Linda Lucas Anstey.
The annex houses several county offices that must be open and accessible to the public for daily business, including the supervisor of assessments' office on the fourth floor. The county board offices are on the third floor, county board meetings are held on the second floor and committee meetings on the third. All other offices, county clerk, treasurer, recorder and election commission, are all on the first floor.
McMahon said it's not easy running a four-story building without an elevator, but "we're going to survive this."
The main stairwell near the elevator is open to those who want to walk the stairs to the second, third and fourth floors. For those who can't or do not want to take the stairs, McMahon said the offices will come to them.
A "satellite" supervisor of assessments' office with one staff person has been set up on the first floor, adjacent to Vermilion County Clerk Lynn Foster's offices.
Foster said the clerk's office will serve as the "clearinghouse" for the public, and her staff will direct people to the appropriate place or call to get personnel from other offices down to the public.
The elevator failure comes in the midst of a renovation project that already has the building in transition, as a private contractor is finishing a new public entrance and sidewalk on the north side of the building.
The new hallway – from the new entrance to the main lobby of the building – runs directly through the Danville Election Commission office. So, the election commission is moving to the auditor's office on the first floor, and the auditor moved to the coroner's space in the basement, and the coroner's office moved to the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency building on Georgetown Road south of Danville.
The coroner and auditor have already moved to their new locations, and the Danville Election Commission is moving this week to its new site.
The county clerk's office is handling voter registration for the election commission, which oversees all election activity within the city of Danville, until the election commission's new office opens.
Anstey said employees noticed the elevator was not operating correctly last week. She said the elevator "kind of dropped" when she stepped into it, so maintenance personnel put more hydraulic fluid in, but when they returned the next day, half of the fluid was already gone.
Anstey said the elevator underwent a routine inspection a few months ago that included a hydraulic pressure test, and it passed.
Two more aging elevators operate across Vermilion Street in the Vermilion County Courthouse, and McMahon said the county intends to replace those two elevators long-term, because that would involve several hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said that at the courthouse, if one elevator goes out, the other can still be used.
"This is a wake-up call for us to start looking at these elevators in these old buildings more seriously," he said.
McMahon said he's looking at a long-term solution to the annex elevator, because the county would be operating out of that building for a long time, especially considering the money that's been sunk into it in the last few years.
Almost two years ago, the facade of the annex began to crumble, and some serious water leaks were discovered. The county had to replace the roof and the facade at a combined cost of about $448,000, not including engineering work.
And this year, county officials decided to move the main entrance to the north side of the building and close the entrance on the south side to protect pedestrians entering the building from any debris that might fall from the deteriorating facade of the vacant, 13-story Bresee Tower, which is adjacent to the annex.
McMahon promised county board members that the project, which includes a new entrance and interior remodeling due to three county offices being moved, would not cost the county more than $125,000.
The double-door entrance and exterior overhang are complete, and crews were working Monday to lay a new sidewalk, at the county's expense, from the new entrance to the Vermilion Street sidewalk.
Once the new entrance is open, the south side entrance will be closed.
Board meeting moved
The Vermilion County board will be holding its regular meeting at 6 p.m. today on the second floor of Old National Bank, 2 W. Main St., Danville.