By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
The City of Joliet could be on the hook for roughly $65 million in facilities’ repairs and upgrades within the next year, a recent study suggests.
“Back several years ago—remember when we did the city’s strategic plan—one of things that we were tasked with was doing a facilities study, looking at our various buildings throughout the city, and determining the course of action, and the money necessary to keep them going and being functioning properly,” said Ken Mihelich, director of administrative services. “That whole process was really a collaboration of a bunch of efforts.”
The assessment, which CDM Smith is conducting, examines 66 city-owned buildings at 55 sites and includes sewer treatment plants, city hall, police and fire stations, and the train station.
Mihelich said he is glad to say the process of studying the city’s facilities is coming to an end.
“It’s been a very good process,” he said. “We had a lot of great corroboration from all the departments throughout the city, as well as the Rialto and the library, which were included in the study.”
CDM Smith’s focus at each of the sites is to examine the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and site elements. The study is meant to provide an assessment and recommendation of what maintenance, repairs and improvements are required over a 20-year period. The city also asked CDM Smith to take a look at what high priority improvements are needed for the Rialto Square Theatre and the library, but keep them separate.
Amrou Atassi, a representative for CDM Smith, said he wanted the mayor and the council to understand that what they’re finding in terms of anticipated costs and recommendations is common.
“We do these type of assessments on a number of other facilities, a number of other locations throughout the state, [and] throughout the country,” he said. “There’s nothing unusual in terms of the—as we present our numbers later on—some of the numbers. [They] might seem large, but they are typical for a community of this size.”
The assessment identified a number of critical projects to invest, as well as areas in which they suggest the city look to divest or defer.
“Our strategy was basically to look at the highest priority buildings with the lowest condition,” said Ben Harber, another representative for CDM Smith. “Our most concern in terms of an investment priority in our recommendations is basically looking at facilities that are very important to the city [and] are well utilized, but are in poor condition.”
As such, recommendations outlined a need to focus on improving fire stations No. 4 and No. 7, the public utilities and administration building, fleet garage No. 1 and No. 2, and roadway maintenance facility. The upgrades, if approved, are estimated to cost the city approximately $31 million and include the use of the contingency fund.
CDM Smith suggested that Joliet officials abandon efforts to improve the Joliet Catholic Academy gymnasium and the Stonich building.
“We think there are some investments basically that could be deferred or buildings that … need to be leveraged, so we say,” Harber said.
The study also recommended that Joliet officials defer various improvement projects.
If Joliet officials follow CDM Smith’s recommendations, they need to account for roughly $65 million to cover city-owned building improvements, budget for roughly $4-7 million toward the library and the Rialto, and abandon efforts to repair the gymnasium at Joliet Catholic Academy and the Stonich building to free up $7 million.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk gave credit to Interim City Manager Marty Shanahan and former City Manager James Hock for getting CDM Smith to conduct a facilities assessment study.
“I think it’s again government,” he said. “We have to take ownership of these buildings, but I think more importantly we’re seeing that we need to develop a plan moving forward, not just with the capital improvements but citywide. I think that we need a definite plan—a five or 10-year plan—on how the city is going to keep progressing.”