City OKs purchase of excavator for $225,000
By Dan Moran email@example.com | @NewsSunDanMoran October 11, 2013 6:00PM
Waukegan had a $58,195 deal with Lake County Grading to take down the old Madison Avenue restaurant on Sheridan Road in 2011. The razing of the old News-Sun building, also taken down in 2011, would be considered too big for the city's new equipment.
Updated: November 13, 2013 6:03AM
After years of hiring contractors job by job to demolish blighted properties, Waukegan plans to get into the business of razing abandoned structures by itself after the City Council approved the purchase of a $225,000 excavator on Monday.
“This will make us a little more efficient in tearing down homes,” Public Works Director Tom Hagerty said on Thursday, Oct. 10, adding that the John Deere 250G excavator weighs in “at around 60,000 pounds, so it’s not a toy.”
The purchase of an in-house option for taking out abandoned or gutted structures reflects a policy statement in the city’s 2012-13 budget that called for a “more aggressive stance regarding the demolition of problem properties.”
Also, the city is preparing three different Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) districts — for the downtown area, the lakefront north of Grand Avenue and the lakefront south of Grand — and each of them calls for site preparation of subject properties that includes demolition, grading and excavating.
In the recent past, the city has struck contracts with private companies to raze various structures, including a $58,195 deal with Libertyville-based Lake County Grading to take down the old Madison Avenue restaurant at 34 N. Sheridan Road in 2011.
Hagerty noted that some demolition jobs will be too big for his crews to handle even with the new equipment, saying the 2011 razing of the six-story News-Sun building would serve as an example.
That project, performed by Alpine Demolition Inc. of Batavia, cost the city $527,000, with the College of Lake County contributing $272,500.
“We’re not getting into that kind of demolition. We won’t be able to tear down 100 percent of the structures we need to tear down,” Hagerty said. “I would say that this is intended (for) 80 to 90 percent of what we want to tear down. Some of them are just too big for us.”
When the council voted unanimously to approve the purchase on Monday, 8th Ward Ald. William Valko made it clear what he expects the equipment to provide.
“There’s a lot of different functions for this John Deere excavator and we spent a lot of money on this,” said Valko, “and one of the functions is to tear down homes — the abandoned homes, the homes that have been burned out.
“We’ll be seeing a lot of this machinery coming out in the neighborhoods — hopefully, (as) soon as we get it — to make Waukegan more beautiful.”
Both Hagerty and Building Commissioner Dave Marion said this week that the city will be moving forward with demolition of several vacant homes this fall, with Marion saying he’d like to take down five before the end of the year and another five next spring. Marion added that the city has clearance from the courts to take down two as soon as possible, and one in particular — a fire-damaged residence on the 800 block of Pine Street — will likely be the first to go because it reportedly has become a headache for police.
Hagerty said the excavator, which also will be used for road work and other projects, is scheduled for delivery the week of Oct. 21 and will quickly be put into the field.
“We have homes that we’re going to knock down and get rid of as soon as we get the legal authority to do so,” said Hagerty, adding that demolitions will “be a lot more frequent.”