Testing seeks information to determine future of Naperville's bell tower
The materials that make up Moser Tower in Naperville are going under the microscope this week as contractors begin testing to determine what's causing the structure to deteriorate and how much it would cost to fix.
Workers were visible Tuesday scaling the side of the tower that houses the Millennium Carillon in a large scaffolding cart and climbing the stairs from within.
Signs were visible, too, telling the public this is only a test; there has not yet been a decision made about whether to fix the structural problems identified last year at the 18-year-old, $7.1 million bell tower or to raze it if work would be too costly.
"We're not repairing it or taking it down or anything like that," said Bill Novack, Naperville's director of transportation, engineering and development. "It's simply information and data that we need."
The testing is twofold, Novack said.
Crews at the 160-foot-tall tower along the Riverwalk are gathering samples of concrete and steel supports to send to labs for testing. Meanwhile, other experts are reviewing shop drawings, which are designs construction crews created from architectural drawings as they built the structure that has become an icon of Naperville.
Novack said the shop drawings were nowhere to be found last year when consultant Engineering Resource Associates of Warrenville conducted a $50,000 study on the tower that pointed out some issues.
The report found cracked and deteriorating concrete walls that could cause pieces to fall "without notice," and corroded steel supports that could decrease stability. Yet engineers say the tower poses no immediate safety risk.
So officials with the city and the Riverwalk Commission, which oversees the tower, last year decided to seek an additional study. The city hired Engineering Resource Associates under a $148,000 contract to hire subcontractors and conduct more in-depth testing, which began Monday.
The work is expected to take 10 to 14 days. Results will be compiled into a second report, which the Riverwalk Commission expects to receive this summer.
Any changes at the tower are likely a ways off, Novack said. Riverwalk Commission members likely will need a few months to digest the findings in the new report and possibly seek input from others, such as donors whose contributions bought the 72 bells for the carillon.
The Naperville Park District's board of commissioners would need time to weigh in before the city council eventually decides what to do with the structure.