The site of the future Westchester Village Hall at 2305 Enterprise Drive on April 29. | File
Saturday, April 30, 2022 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
In October 2021, the village of Westchester was well on its way toward relocating from its current Village Hall at 10300 Roosevelt Road to its new municipal complex on a campus that includes two buildings at 2305 Enterprise Drive and 2315 Enterprise Drive, which would house a brand new senior center along with renovated village offices, and new spaces for the police and public works departments.
Last April, the board borrowed $4.6 million in order to purchase the Enterprise Drive properties. The site of the village’s current Village Hall is slated to be demolished and replaced with a new retail development that would include an Aldi Foods and a Starbucks, among other retailers. If all went according to plan, village officials would be moving into the new municipal digs by next month.
“A lot of municipalities are spending tens of millions of dollars to build a new property,” said former Westchester village manager Paul Nosek in October 2021. “If we spend $1.5 million to $2 million on our renovations and purchase after we sell our property, which is our estimate right now, we’d be in pretty good shape.”
Things have changed considerably since then, shellshocked Westchester village board members learned during a Committee of the Whole meeting on April 26.
It turns out, the buildings on Enterprise Drive still sit empty, there are no fleshed out plans for a senior center and a project once projected to cost a few million dollars has now ballooned to a total cost that is currently unknown, since a comprehensive plan for the entire two-building complex was never done.
“What we were under the impression was going on, clearly was not,” said Acting Village President Nick Steker during the April 26 meeting. “When I walked in there, it was nothing like I was being told. And we were still being told recently this was going to be happening sooner rather than later. Walking into that door was very eye-opening.”
Nosek, who resigned last week for undisclosed reasons, has been replaced by an acting village manager, Greg Hribal, the village’s IT manager, who is now tasked with the hard work of wading through the murkiness left in his predecessor’s wake.
Hribal said his ballpark estimate for completing the entire renovation project, including installing critical equipment and systems, is about $7.5 million. The village is hoping that about $3.6 million in anticipated state funding materializes while other funding to pay down costs related to the move would be contingent on selling its current Roosevelt Road property.
Mike Gatto, a consultant hired in September 2021 to help with the renovation process, informed the board that some of the delay could be attributed to Nosek’s decision to switch from utilizing the design contractor that had been connected to the project and go out to bid in an attempt to control project costs.
Gatto said the village opened the bidding process up, but stopped the process after they only received one bid. A subsequent bidding process drew 11 bidders and three finalists, whose bids Gatto presented on April 26.
Back in October 2021, Nosek told board members that construction on the new village hall would start no later than Jan. 1, 2022. Nosek said that the village contracted with Lockport-based UGX LLC to conduct the demolition services, which include the removal of interior walls, ceiling tiles, carpet and other materials.
“We’re at the point right now where we’ll have final drawings and go out to bid for the construction part of it,” Nosek said during a regular board meeting on Oct. 18, 2021.
But apparently, that construction would only include the village hall offices and police department — not the other parts of the two-building campus. Gatto said he was brought into the process only to consult on aspects of the project related to the buildout of the village hall and police department.
Other aspects, such as the public works space and a potential senior citizen center, were not within his purview, Gatto said.
That was information that took some board members, who were under the assumption that a senior center would be included in the newly renovated village hall, by surprise, particularly since they recalled Nosek sharing plans for the center.
Gatto said that demolition has been done on, and an outside border erected around, a space that might be used for a senior center. More details about a proposed center would need to be fleshed out, he said.
Gatto said demolition has been completed and he’s received three general contractor bids for the village hall and police department buildout. Two bids from Clune Construction and Boulder Construction both came in at around $3.7 million. The lowest bidder of $2.7 million came from Integral Construction.
The board directed Gatto to commission a massing study — which is the study of the general scope of the overall project for the entire two-building site, including the public works space — something that had not happened before. That would cost between $4,000 and $5,000.
In addition, Gatto will work to get the board an estimated cost for the entire project within a couple of weeks. He’ll ask bidders to hold their bids for about a month while this is done.
Meanwhile, board members said that, going forward, they want to see monthly status updates on the renovation project, regular written reports and opportunities to ask questions of professionals working on the buildout. As this pace, the renovations won’t be completed before late fall, at the very earliest, village officials said. And funding the unforeseen cost increase is a matter that’s up in the air.
The board’s questions and the plan that was salvaged from the process on April 26 wasn’t enough for Westchester resident Travis Morris, who expressed his concerns during public comment.
“Who really builds a house without knowing the actual cost of it?” Morris said. “I can’t understand how the board can go this long without those questions being asked.”