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Kane committee backs rebidding of 3rd Street Courthouse elevator work

GENEVA – Plans to install a new elevator at Kane County's historic courthouse will remain stalled on the ground floor after the Kane County Board agreed to rework the plans to include expensive revisions officials said are required by Geneva fire officials.

Thursday, the Kane County Board's Administration Committee voted 4-1 to cancel an existing contract to construct the new elevator at the Third Street Courthouse in Geneva and solicit new bids for the expanded work.

Kane County officials have planned for more than a year to install a new elevator in the courthouse, which is a recognized historic landmark.

Last fall, the County Board awarded a contract for $806,000 to five contractors to install an elevator in a corner of the antique courthouse 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.

The plan called for the stairs to be removed and replaced by an elevator shaft.

Officials said the new elevator was needed to bring the building into compliance with modern requirements. The elevator now at the courthouse is too small to fit emergency medical stretchers or wheelchairs, they said.

County officials had planned to complete the elevator work by mid-2013. But since then, county officials and architects have been forced to revise the plans to fit the guidelines of the Geneva Fire Department.

Tim Harbaugh, the county's director of environmental management, who oversees county buildings, said fire officials have required the county to also enclose two staircases at the building's north and south corners, and install a stand pipe to carry water to the upper floors of the courthouse.

The enclosed staircases would provide refuge for people in the courthouse until they could be rescued by firefighters in the event of a blaze at the courthouse, Harbaugh said.

The additional work would add more than $200,000 to the cost of the project, Harbaugh said.

A majority of committee members opted to continue supporting the project and believed the project should be revised to include the new work, which they said would be done in a manner sensitive to the building's historic nature.

Harbaugh said the Kane County State's Attorney's Office is reviewing how much the county would need to pay to cancel the existing contract. He said the amount could run up to $35,000.

"We push for everybody else to do improvements to their buildings," said County Board member Ron Ford, D-Aurora. "We need to keep up with ourselves, and we need to look at completing this project.

"It's something that really needs to be done."

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