Abandonment is not an Acceptable End for the Lombard Gym

by Gary Tomlin

 

The issue of the nearly 100-year-old Lombard Gym is not complex.  A preservation solution may be simple if only the School Board and administration had a will to seek it. They have not done so. This is disturbing because whether they admit it or not, they have a stewardship responsibility.

 

We neither built or bought the Lombard Gym. We inherited it. We are not it's owners. We are its stewards. It stands as the only remaining structure that there was once a Lombard College. And while it's historical significance in 2008 may be debatable, in a hundred years it will be indisputable.

 

We are refusing to preserve the past, for the future, so the middle school wrestling program can have new, more convenient locker rooms now. We are selling this heritage way too cheap. In Europe, demolition or abandonment would not even be considered.

 

The administration has made their case. It is tear down or abandon the building and build new locker rooms. This is a decision that goes far beyond this board, administrators or even this generation. Before going forward, the board would be diligent to seek a second opinion that critically  analyzed the administration's numbers and conclusions and looked for a viable alternative to abandonment.

 

A task force, independent from the staff administrators, reporting directly to the board, could do that. The school board should not make this far-reaching decision by itself. The administrators should welcome a task force. If they have done their job right and there is nothing to hide, their conclusion will stand up. As it is, no one seems to be willing to discuss a task force, a second opinion or seek alternatives.

 

A number of people are coming forward with desire to help preserve the building. I don't see it as that big of a job, but I am having a real hard time seeing the $1.5 million restoration cost that the school administration claims. While they seem confident to wave that number around as a reason to abandon the building, I'm puzzled why they don't put that number's support up for public scrutiny. Certainly transparency on this would lead to credibility. Until then, whenever someone says it will cost too much to return the locker rooms to service, the short answer is, “Prove it!”

 

Those who say the building is falling down and it's been condemned are not encumbering themselves with the facts.

 

The building is structurally sound  It is not falling down and it is not going to fall down any time soon. When I asked the school district's architect of it's condition he said, “The building is structurally sound.”

 

The Fire and Health Departments did not condemn the building. They don't have that authority. There are several deferred maintenance items, such as the fire alarm and exit lights are not working. Both entities have provided a list of things to be fixed before the building can be occupied, but that is a long way from condemnation, and I suspect not near $1.5 million.

 

The School Board and administration could be cast in a more favorable light had they sincerely invited public participation in finding a preservation solution before they committed resources to abandon it.

Unless I missed something, from August 2005 until the present, the Lombard Gym has not appeared on any School Board Meeting Agenda as a discussion item. In the past 41 regular school board meetings, the minutes reflect that it's demolition was mentioned as a progress report in the Building and Grounds Committee Report three times about year ago, and the last three meetings since their ambition has come before the public.

 

We are teaching by example that this History is not important, and we have no responsibility for its preservation. I doubt the students whom we require to study History are missing the hypocrisy in this situation.

 

If you have 30 to 60 minutes to work toward saving the Lombard Gym, call 309-221-9953 We  will welcome your help.

 

City of Galesburg Fire Department

March 12, 2007, by Captain William Thomas

1.  The south fire escape is in need of repair.

2.  None of the emergency lights are in working order.

3.  None of the exit signs are in working order

4.  Exposed electrical wires were found. All shall be repaired or removed.

5.  Existing plywood in front exit at the stairs does not meet the flame/smoke spread rating.

6.  Alarm system is dated and has not been tested since 2001.

7.  The building shall be fire sprinkled in accordance with [applicable codes]

8.  The balcony, stairs and fire exit guard railing should be checked for compliance with the Life Safety Code.

 

 

Knox County Health Department

March 13, 2007, by Wil Hayes.

1.  The sewer line leaving the building has deteriorated and collapsed.

2.  The building heating system  is not functional

3.  The building is not currently connected to the public water supply.

4.  The majority of the lighting is not functional.

5.  All of the doors have gaps around them creating the potential for infestation of insects and rodents.

6.  Bird droppings were found around the main entry of the building. This Department is also aware of previous problems with bird infiltrations in the building and large quantities of droppings from the birds.

 

From neither source but a relevant expense:

The building will require American Disability Act compliance.

 

2/21/08

 

 

 

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