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Local News

Engineering firm presents Joliet prison restoration needs to city council

Nearly 20 people tour the Old Joliet Prison on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, during the first public tour of the shuttered correctional facility in Joliet, Ill.
Nearly 20 people tour the Old Joliet Prison on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, during the first public tour of the shuttered correctional facility in Joliet, Ill.

At a meeting Monday night, the Joliet City Council heard a presentation on the condition of the Old Joliet Prison.

Klein & Hoffman, a Chicago architectural and structural engineering firm, completed the report on the prison’s condition. Terry McDonald, an associate principal with Klein & Hoffman, told the council members the purpose of the report was to get a better understanding of the general condition of six structures at the prison and provide recommendations for mitigating further decay.

The analysis listed more than $10 million in repairs needed to stabilize the six buildings at the prison. The six structures the analysis was done on include the administration building, east and west cellblocks, the chapel, hospital and the smokestack of the power house.

McDonald said the inspection team spent about seven days with different crews evaluating the prison structures. They started with a naked eye assessment of the exterior looking at the facade. They walked on each floor of the buildings and used a drone to get a look at structures such as the smokestack and the roofs of buildings that they were unsure were safe to walk on.

“[It] was a great tool for getting bird’s-eye views of really hard to reach areas,” McDonald said of the drone.

They were able to take dozens of photos, including those hard to access areas, many of which were taken with the drone.

“That helped us out quite a bit,” he said. “We had a lot of good data that we documented and photographed.”

McDonald summarized the report’s main findings that there was substantial deterioration due mostly to excessive water entering the building through broken windows, vandalism and deteriorating walls and ceilings.

Among the structures in need of immediate attention was the smokestack, which McDonald said had severe deterioration on its top and needs to be cordoned off. The analysis recommended putting perimeter fencing around the smokestack’s base to prevent people from being struck by a part that might fall off. To address the immediate needs identified would cost about $65,000.

Joliet Assistant City Manager Steve Jones reiterated that the analysis was a “road map” to identifying priorities in restoring the prison over the next few years as well as opportunities to apply for grants and other outside funding options.

“If we could get people into some of the buildings at some point, if we could start to utilize some of those buildings not just for access, but for events, we’re serving the public, we’re serving the city, we find a way to make additional revenue,” Jones told the council.

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