Structural issues may slow Annex remodel

Pictured is the Monroe County Annex at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo. (Alan Dooley photo)

What started as a special meeting Tuesday morning to ask building occupants what remodeling work is required at the Monroe County Annex added a new focus quickly, as a discussion of structural problems emerged.

The work comes as the Monroe County Health Department prepares to move out of the Annex, located at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo, into a larger space at 1312 Jamie Lane on the north end of Waterloo.

Health department director John Wagner told Monroe County Board members and other meeting attendees he expects to be out of the Annex and into the new location by Jan. 1, which is a month later than originally planned.

The Monroe-Randolph Regional Office of Education is expected to move from its current building at 107 E. Mill Street in Waterloo into the area being vacated by the health department at the Annex, gaining floor space and more individual offices.

The University of Illinois Extension office will remain in its present space inside the Annex, as will Monroe County EMS.

The Monroe County Annex was placed in service in August 1997, according to maintenance supervisor Brian Hooten. Most of it has remained largely as it was built.

As department heads of the offices remaining in or moving to the Annex began to list remodeling needs, they also noted problems that point to structural issues that will have to be addressed.

Problems include uneven floors that have cracked due to slab settling, cracks in walls through which outside air flows freely and doors that no longer close well due to foundation settling.

In addition, the back wall may be structurally tilted.

Regional Office of Education Superintendent Kelton Davis said his office requires additional space to accommodate staff and extensive testing services.  He noted ROE’s testing and licensing services are so popular and economical that many candidates come from St. Louis and pay for testing here.

U of I Extension director Pam Jacobs noted her office spaces have remained essentially as they were built 21 years ago.

“We still have the same, now heavily worn, carpet,” she said.

Needs that Jacobs identified include fixing exterior door air leakage, remodeling kitchen and restroom spaces, more storage space, possibly pouring a concrete slab for a storage building and modifications to better accommodate handicapped visitors.  

Monroe County Ambulance Director Carla Heise noted the aforementioned cracks, which emit cold air into the department’s space, and a need for more space that she has expressed for the last 15 years.

“We essentially have people on duty, living here, around the clock,” she said.

In addition, Heise called for a refresh of kitchen and restroom spaces, and repairing and painting the floor, especially the garage area where ambulances are washed daily.

Hooten noted that structural issues probably should have been noticed early on, since the building was constructed on muddy ground. He said dry soil was added on top of the mud and the concrete slab was poured on top of that.

“Later, in very dry times, the mud dried and shrank, and that’s where the structural problems started,” he added.

Monroe County Board Chairman Bob Elmore said he wanted to halt remodeling plans until an engineer could be brought in to assess the overall structural challenges facing the building.

“There’s no sense in starting to remodel the interior until we can identify the nature of the structural issues and the way to correct them,” Elmore said. “Otherwise we will be in the same situation down the road again.”

He also noted that many issues may be hidden by carpeting and in areas that are not frequented by people. He added that the HVAC system and water heating equipment may be nearing their end-of-service days.

When the meeting adjourned, county officials and building occupants took a tour to observe many of the issues noted during the meeting. 

Commissioner Vicki Koerber said she plans to meet with each Annex occupant and review individual remodeling and other needs.

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