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Local News

Rialto repair costs piling up

Terra cotta problems worsen

JOLIET – Rialto Square Theatre management has more problems to deal with.

The Rialto board, which in recent months has been embroiled in a marquee controversy, heard Wednesday it is facing about $400,000 worth of additional work to keep terra cotta from falling off the side of the historic Joliet building.

And, the price of the job could double if it is put off.

The board learned the news at the same meeting where it voted to give back Ed Czerkies his $350,000 marquee donation. The board also made another $53,000 payment for work already done on the marquee – bringing total payments so far to about $171,000 – before production was stopped after opponents objected to the design that Czerkies was paying for.

The board put off a decision on whether to move ahead with $200,000 in needed chimney repairs because it doesn’t have the money.

“We have none available,” Rialto General Manager Randy Green when one board member asked if the theater had contingency funds for the $400,000 worth of terra cotta work. “If there is an opportunity to do option one, we will see if there is money available.”

Option one would cost about $26,000 and keep terra cotta in place with netting and plastic wrap for as long as a couple of years while the Rialto looks for the money to get the job done.

Board Chairman James Smith asked about the aesthetics of Option One while noting he did not like term “chicken wire,” which was how Building Manager Mike Biedron described the netting that would be used to keep the terra cotta intact.

“Really,” Biedron replied. “It will look like [expletive]. It will look like [expletive].”

The Rialto exterior already is surrounded with netting, plastic wrap and scaffolding as work crews complete a $2.2 million terra cotta repair and replacement project.

Not all terra cotta is being replaced, however, because the Rialto did not have enough money for the entire project. Now, it’s been discovered that more terra cotta is damaged than was originally known, Biedron said.

Pieces of terra cotta are splitting “in half from the inside out,” he said.

Bulley Andrews Masonry Construction, the contractor doing the work now, could replace the additional terra cotta for $400,000 if it keeps on working, Biedron said. But the cost of the work would double if a crew would have to come to the site again because of the costs associated with setting up the scaffolding and other equipment needed for the project, he said.

The board tabled decisions on the additional terra cotta repairs and chimney work.

The chimney needs a metal flue to replace the existing one, which has begun to rot away.

Biedron said the chimney should be good through this winter.

“At this point, right now, I would say it’s not an absolute, urgent priority,” he said. “But it needs to be done.”

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