TOULON — Stark County officials have taken preliminary steps toward replacing a nearly 80-year-old highway department building that has been called "a ticking time bomb" because of its age and condition.
The County Board voted last week to pay $8,500 to an engineering firm for a conceptual site plan and cost estimates for the construction of a new maintenance building at 401 E. Main St., which is also Illinois Route 17, near the east end of Toulon.
Hutchison Engineering Inc. of Moline will provide a topographic survey of the 5.2 acres where the main building and two others sit; a conceptual layout of the site with improvements, and programming needs and cost estimates for construction of a new facility, according to a contract approved at a brief special meeting.
The fee will be covered by motor fuel tax funds, and so would part of a new building that has been roughly estimated to cost around $250,000, said county engineer Judd Giffin.
The current building, a modernistic concrete structure with glass brick sidewall sections, was completed in 1942 with the help of Works Progress Administration funds. It had "little use as a highway department" by late 2018, when a consultant found such problems as inadequate ventilation, inefficient heating, a badly leaking roof and mold in office areas.
"It’s a ticking time bomb," Bruce Delashmit of Bellwether LLC told the County Board then in urging them to start thinking about replacing it.
Giffin himself, who has held the part-time job for a year, has done a basic design of an approximately 8,400-square-foot pole building that would be located north of the present one at a spot that would require moving or demolishing an old shed. It would have six bays as well as an office area and would be served by a new driveway entering from Illinois Route 91 on the west.
The property elevation increases there, and a major part of Hutchison’s services would entail determining the best way to "cut the hill down in order to level it out," Giffin said.
The plan would be to use the old building for unheated storage once a new one is built, Giffin said. But in the longer term, it might have to be replaced if a buyer wanted to utilize that highly visible corner section of the property for development.
"The highway department is trying to move back so that corner could be used for some type of commercial application," Giffin said.
A Dollar General store developer offered $127,000 for the corner back in 2004, and the board voted to pursue a formal agreement, But the offer was later withdrawn, and the store wound up in Wyoming instead.
Roof repairs were done on the building several months ago, but officials decided not to proceed with mold remediation for office areas. An ozone unit is used in the shop, and a temporary mobile unit was rented for office space.
"There was no point in doing mold remediation because we’re never going to put anybody back in that building (in the office)," Giffin said.
Giffin’s $250,000 building estimate would not be the total cost, he emphasized, because there would be extensive site work. One of Hutchison’s services will be providing information on possible funding sources, Giffin added.
"We can use MFT funds for the maintenance building. I cannot use them for the office part," he said. "So that’s one of the things we would have to work around in funding."
There is no firm timeline on the project, but Hutchison’s plan is expected "within August," and rapid progress after that might make it possible to start going out for bids as soon as September, Giffin indicated.
"I’d like to see it get done," he said. "The sooner, the better."
Gary L. Smith can be reached at (800) 516-0389 or email@example.com.