The century-old silos that frame Inverness village hall stand as the village's quintessential image.
They're also slowly deteriorating, and officials are starting to investigate how to best prevent the four structures at Baldwin and Roselle roads from falling into disrepair.
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The village's community development committee this week directed staff to find and research vendors capable of repairing the storied silos, which house the mayor's office, a conference room, computer servers and storage.
Rebuilding them in their entirety -- to the tune of more than $1 million -- isn't an option being considered right now.
"There's recognition by the board of the imagery associated with the silos, and that's not lost on anyone," village Administrator Curt Carver said. "But from a functional standpoint, spending that much on three offices seems hefty."
The big challenge will be the outdated technology in the silos, which were built "circa 1900," according to a plaque presented more than 10 years ago by the local Four Silos Questers group.
Carver said the silos were constructed with steel rings inside the concrete blocks, making repairs difficult. Similar structures built today typically have the steel on the outside, he said.
Repairs are necessary because water has been penetrating the concrete, rusting the steel, building pressure and, as a result, causing pieces to pop out. Water also is finding its way inside village hall, though that is more of a nuisance than damaging.
Carver doesn't expect the repairs to take place until 2014.
Daily Herald archives show the silos last underwent some patchwork and roof repairs in 1996 at a cost of about $130,000.
The village sent out an informal survey to residents several years ago asking whether they thought it was worth spending $1 million-plus on replacing the silos.
"There was no clear mandate," Carver said.
The survey showed a slight majority of residents who live east of Ela Road -- and closer to the silos -- supported the expense. The opposite was true for those west of Ela Road.
According to local historians, the silos were once part of Thomas Wilson's farm. Legend has it that gangsters ran a still and stored hooch there during Prohibition. Al Capone and others supposedly used the silos as lookout towers, with a view of the train tracks and, on a clear day, downtown Chicago.
Inverness bought the property and converted it to village hall in 1984.