RVC’s theater roof collapsing

n Board Chairman: ‘They’re repairing it at their cost’

Repairs on Rock Valley College’s (RVC) new $12.6 million outdoor theater with an origami-type roof began Dec. 19.

Randy Schaefer, RVC Board of Trustees chairman, said: “The structural engineer came through and didn’t like the way some of the bolts were lining up through the roof and throughout the main panels. … They’re repairing it at their cost.”

Schaefer added there were “cracks” in welds that piece the roof together.

The roof is being supported by about 12 extra metal poles ranging in length estimated up to 40 feet. Footings for the poles are made from stacks of brick and wood in an effort to avoid damaging the seating area’s concrete floor. The poles extend from the floor to where several triangular sections of the roof meet.

Schaefer said repair crews would be working on the roof through March. The cost of the repairs and name of the structural engineer were not known at the time of publication. Sam Overton, RVC’s chief financial officer, said new cost estimates for building the theater, including construction change orders, will be available Jan. 27.

RVC President Roland Chapdelaine originally announced the theater’s construction was $8 million. However, the project has had at least $4.6 million in construction cost overruns.

RVC’s student newspaper, The Valley Forge, reported Jan. 29, 2003, just the mechanical portion of the roof weighs about 30,000 pounds (or 15 tons). The roof is composed of a steel exterior and wood interior panels attached to metal frames. Construction for the theater was conducted in three phases beginning June 2001. The roof was built between December 2002 and June 2003.

Mike Webb, the theater’s director, told The Valley Forge, “The assembly is an engineering wonder.” Opening and closing the roof for performances features a fingerprint recognition security system. Webb said: “There is no noise and no sound as the operational pieces move. It is amazing. This has never been done before.”

The Valley Forge also reported that originally all Webb asked for was a roof over the theater’s original stage and seating.

RVC heavily advertised the theater’s June 10, 2003, opening. A May 28 advertisement in another newspaper read: “Some cities hire the best architects in the world to design their arts centers. Now it’s Rockford’s turn.”

The theater’s architect was Studio Gang/O’Donnell, Ltd., according to Ed Smith, director of financial planning for the Illinois Community College Board. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office lists the architectural firm’s agent as Belvidere native Jeanne K. Gang, whose office is at 1212 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago.

The Rock River Times reported in a March 12, 2003, article that Gang allegedly used her parents’ Belvidere addresses as a ploy to meet RVC’s local hiring requirements. The RVC Board of Trustees require outside firms to partner with other firms within RVC’s taxing district, which includes Boone County, but not Chicago.

Gang won at least $1.5 million in contracts for design of Starlight and the proposed $32.6 million Arts and Instruction Center (AIC). The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects opposed hiring Gang and her associates in a March 17, 2000, letter because Gang’s business residence is outside RVC’s taxing district and RVC’s residency hiring policy. The institute’s letter from President Scott Long, which was the subject of the March 12 article, was sent to Chapdelaine and Don Williams, the college’s chief operating officer.

Gang alleged in March that Long wrote the letter because she is a woman and because he and other male board members’ firms were not selected to design the AIC. Gang said she was born and raised in Belvidere and still has a “strong local presence,” even though she lives in the Chicago area.

Gang could not be reached for comment on the problems with the theater roof.

An RVC professor reacted to news of the roof repairs by saying, “It’s a powerful metaphor for how the college has been run since Chapdelaine arrived.” Chapdelaine began his tenure as president in November 1997 and has had 204-28 “no confidence” votes by the RVC’s faculty and staff since late last summer.

John Strandin, communications director for Rockford, said city building inpsectors did not have jurisdiction at the college. At time of publication, the agency responsible for inspecting the roof was unclear.

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