Task force to chime in on Naperville bell tower's future

  • Naperville is expected to form a task force to evaluate potential engineering solutions that could fix structural issues with Moser Tower, the 160-foot structure along the Riverwalk that holds the Millennium Carillon.

      Naperville is expected to form a task force to evaluate potential engineering solutions that could fix structural issues with Moser Tower, the 160-foot structure along the Riverwalk that holds the Millennium Carillon. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/9/2017 10:16 AM

The number of people helping Naperville decide what to do about structural problems with its iconic bell tower is about to get larger.

Mayor Steve Chirico is expected to appoint nine or 10 members to a task force that will evaluate ways to potentially save the 17-year-old structure that houses the Millennium Carillon.

 

Waiting for the task force's recommendation likely will delay the time frame for deciding the fate of Moser Tower, which stands 160 feet tall along the downtown Riverwalk and holds 72 bells donated by the community.

The original schedule called for the city council to consider options to maintain, restore or tear down the structure this fall as part of discussions on capital improvements budgeted for 2018. Options identified so far could cost between $660,000 to tear down the tower and $3.75 million to restore its structural integrity and enclose the lower 72 feet in glass.

Now, the new task force is expected to take until early next year to make its recommendations, said Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development.

"It's worth the time," Novack said. "The tower is in no imminent danger."

Discussions about the tower's future began in May when the city released an engineering study that found the structure suffers from corroded structural steel, cracking concrete, deteriorating sealant at the joints and a leaking plaza.

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Since word has gotten out, Novack said the city has been approached by contractors offering several potential solutions, among them processes called cathodic protection, carbon fiber wrapping and the use of coating materials. Novack said the city is convening a meeting next week to allow the contractors to tour the tower and explain how their fixes would work -- and how much they would cost.

Information gathered during that meeting can help the task force investigate long-term technical solutions to keep the tower standing for decades to come, said Geoff Roehll, chairman of the city's Riverwalk Commission.

"Because of this technology side of it," he said, "we see that as a glimmer of hope."

The task force would give its recommendation to the Riverwalk Commission, which is reviewing the tower's future because the structure is maintained as part of a Riverwalk agreement between the city and the park district.

The commission then would make its own recommendation to the city council. Council members will make the final call on which option is best and how to pay for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Although the decision is no longer on track to be made before next year's budget is finalized, Novack said the spending plan can be amended if officials decide the tower needs to be fixed or town down in 2018.

The task force is expected to include a representative of the city council, the Riverwalk commission, a city employee, a park district employee, a past member of the now disbanded Millennium Carillon Foundation, the engineering consultants who conducted the structural assessment, a former city project manager with background expertise on the tower and two residents appointed by the mayor.

Roehll said the idea will be to balance membership among those who favor keeping the tower and those who are more concerned about the cost.

The group is expected to "put some focused energy ... to fully vet the options," Roehll said.

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