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Elevator work to begin in Geneva courthouse

GENEVA – The county’s historical courthouse is about to get a lift.

In coming weeks, work will begin on installing a new, larger elevator in downtown Geneva’s Kane County Courthouse.

On Tuesday, the Kane County Board approved an $806,000 bid package with five contractors to install the elevator at the antique structure on Third Street. For decades, the structure has been served by one elevator, retrofitted into the building just outside of the courthouse’s central rotunda.

But county officials have believed that elevator is not sufficient to meet modern requirements of a functional government building because it is not large enough to fit an emergency medical stretcher or wheelchairs.

Last year, the county began correcting that problem, launching an effort to construct a new elevator shaft.

Under the approved plan, the elevator shaft will be built in a corner of the building that now holds a defunct stairwell. The stairs have been closed to the public for years since the county installed a security checkpoint inside the courthouse’s west entrance. If the stairs had remained open, it would have allowed visitors to evade the security station.

In coming months, those stairs will be gutted and replaced with the elevator shaft. Before demolition work can begin, however, contractors will build a small staircase from the third floor to the fourth floor.

Tim Harbaugh, the county’s director of environmental management, who oversees county buildings, said a firm construction timeline is being crafted and most likely will be completed next week. He said work on the elevator shaft likely will begin about two months after the small staircase is completed.

But he said he anticipates the project will be completed and the elevator opened by mid-2013.

In awarding the bid package, County Board members noted the cost for the project had been reduced from $850,000 – the original price the board had been asked to consider.

An earlier version of the project also included renovation to the fourth floor of the courthouse to create a large courtroom specifically for civil jury trials with multiple litigants that may require more seating – and, in particular, accessible seating for litigants or jurors in wheelchairs.

However, that project was removed from the plans at the recommendation of 16th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Robert Spence, who said the county could not obtain a low enough bid on the work to make it cost effective.

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