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Local News

Yorkville group appeals to save old county jail as city opens bids for demolition

The former Kendall County jail building, constructed in 1893 with an addition in 1960, is poised to be demolished by the city of Yorkville as a group of residents makes an eleventh-hour appeal to save the building.
The former Kendall County jail building, constructed in 1893 with an addition in 1960, is poised to be demolished by the city of Yorkville as a group of residents makes an eleventh-hour appeal to save the building.

A group of Yorkville residents is pushing for an eleventh-hour bid to save the former Kendall County jail building, even as aldermen reviewed bids to demolish the facility.

City Administrator Bart Olson reported to the Yorkville City Council’s Public Works Committee on Tuesday, July 17, that the city received six bids to tear down the structure, built in 1893. A portion of the building was added on in 1960.

D Construction of Coal City submitted the lowest bid at $78,000, Olson said. The highest bid submitted was $145,000, he said.

Olson said the bid amount included the cost of removing asbestos and lead paint prior to demolition.

Olson said the total numbers are higher than the original estimate of between $40,000 and $80,000, but that the environmental mitigation is around $27,000 of that cost.

Olson said the city learned during a walk-through in late June that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had changed its rules at the beginning of the year and that any lead or asbestos removal needs to be done before demolition.

Olson said the city paid Midwest Environmental to conduct an inspection of the old jail. He said the company confirmed asbestos in the pipe wrapping, floor tiles and some ceiling tiles, and “a fair amount of lead paint.” He said the city told the contractors to include the cost of the removal in their bids, so the original bid opening date was moved five days to give the contractors more time to respond to the city’s request for proposals.

The bids were opened Tuesday morning, so city staff was still going through the formal bidder vetting process before they are presented to the full City Council next Tuesday, July 24, Olson said.

Aldermen voted in a straw poll last month in favor of demolishing the jail, as opposed to saving it. The city bought the jail from the county for $160,000, using state grant funds.

A report by Pete Ratos, the city’s chief code official, in April showed that the building was in disrepair and could pose a public safety hazard if it wasn’t demolished or if necessary repairs weren’t immediately made.

Ratos wrote in his report that if the city wants to save just the older portion of the jail that dates to the 1890s, officials would need to perform $130,000 to $180,000 of work, including replacing the jail’s roof, windows and doors; tuck pointing the exterior masonry; and removing the mold.

Three residents – Johanna Byram, Lisa Wolancevich and Thomas Milschewski – have organized a push to save the jail and attended the Public Works Committee meeting on Tuesday evening.

Wolancevich said Tuesday that the group had applied to the state for addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

The group has gotten past the first hurdle at the state level, where the jail has been given a “preliminary positive staff opinion as to its eligibility for listing” in the National Register, according to Andrew Heckencamp of the Historic Preservation Division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“It is my understanding that the applicants are now in the process of drafting the formal registration form. I do not have a timetable as to when that will be submitted to our office,” Heckencamp wrote.

According to the state office, adding a property to the National Register does not “interfere with a private owner’s property rights; prevent private property owners from making changes or force improvements; cause additional regulatory review if a project that affects the property uses state or federal permits, licenses or funds; limit the use of listed buildings; or require that properties be open to the public.”

Milschewski, who is the son of Alderman Jackie Milschewski, said he was skeptical that the City Council will listen to the group’s idea to save the jail when they will also be voting on the bids to tear the building down at the same meeting next Tuesday.

"How are they logically going to think in the short amount of time that we have on Tuesday, what to do with the building?” he said.

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