SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
Efforts by community members helped sway the Shelbyville City Council to reconsider taking bids for demolition of the Chautauqua building.
In the March 4 meeting, the Council decided to collect bids to see how much it would cost the city to tear down the 110-year old building that has become more unstable in recent months. The city’s insurance company has dropped the liability coverage on the building, resulting in closure to use.
Monday’s meeting was attended by more than 50 community members, most of whom were showing support for saving the Chautauqua building.
Mayor Roy Shuff told the crowd that the Council is willing to rescind the motion to take bids on demolition, but could not legally at this meeting due to the absence of commissioner Bill Shoaff, who had seconded the motion.
“I was the one who made the motion, and I will rescind that motion at our next meeting, pending the report by the structural engineer,” Commissioner Brent Fogleman told the crowd. He emphasized that the motion made was only to take bids and was not a decision to tear down the building.
Retired minister Al Fanning, who has experience in construction engineering, shared about meeting with a structural engineer Monday morning regarding the building and what it would take make it sound and getting insurance reinstated. The engineer will compile a report to submit to the council.
“The architectural work was done 110 years ago. Now we need a structural engineer,” Fanning said.
He noted that the beams that were installed after the partial roof collapse in the late 1970s were made by two 2x4s nailed together instead of solid laminated beams.
“If they were laminated beams with u-bolts, it would be stronger than they ever were,” Fanning said.
Fanning also said he believed the estimate for restoration work given four years ago was “extremely exaggerated.”
“It is possible to save enormous amount of money and still maintain the historical significance,” he said. “ For example, you can’t use metal I-beams to replace wooden ones. But windows that were estimated at $5,000 each can be replaced with $700 windows.”
As a result of the March 4 council meeting, a “Save Our Chautauqua” Facebook page was established and has garnered 1,111 supporters and raised more than $33,500 in pledges in a week and a half period.
“It was born out of my interest in seeing the building saved,” said creator Vonda McConnell. “I was like many others who didn’t know the building was in its 11th hour. I had to try something, I didn’t want to see it torn down.”
McConnell said she was prompted to do a lot of research about the history of the Chautauqua buildings throughout the country.
“There are other Chautauqua buildings, but ours is the largest. This is truly a gift and we need to protect it. It deserves to stand,” she said.
Other audience members began speaking to the council.
Norma Hubbartt noted that more than 300 people have signed petitions in support of saving the Chautauqua.
Jack Tynan said he believed the condition of the Chautauqua building today is the result of 75 years of neglect and that he did not want his grandchildren to have to face the same thing 30 years from now.
“We need to maintain it,” he said.
Luke Thompson admitted he is split 50-50 on the fate of the building but added that not the council’s fault that they are now faced with the decision.
“It was the community who has dropped the ball,” he said.
Former Chautauqua Preservation Committee chairman Wayne Gray, who resigned at the March 4 meeting, said he would be willing to help with a business plan for the building’s use if the council decides to move forward on stabilizing it. Funds generated would be used for the building’s maintenance.
McConnell asked the council if the “Save Our Chautauqua” may collect the pledges and move forward on fundraising. The council granted her permission.
Others in the audience also voiced their intentions for fundraising projects.
Donations may be made to the City’s foundation fund with “Chautauqua” designated. Checks may be sent to City Hall at 170 E. Main, Shelbyville. The city will record donor’s information and amount to aid in refunding donations if the council decides to demolish the building.
In other action, the council approved bids for work on the downtown mini-park. Awards were approved to Fox & Austin for $47,316 for reconstruction and structure erection and Hutchinson Recreation & Design for $20,000 for the shelter.
City engineer Alan Spesard added that work on the mini-park should start in June with extra help from the city, an Eagle Scout, IDOT and Ameren.
The council also approved a resolution for the transfer of NewWave cable television franchise to Rural Broadband. The representative assured that name and service will remain the same and customers should see no difference.
The council approved the Corps of Engineers Law Enforcement Contract amendment as presented. The amendment involved a wording change.
The council also approved the proposed Library budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 in the amount of $286,790.
Commissioner Johnson reported that work on South 5th Street between Hickory and Heinlein will begin as soon as weather permits.