Engineer says half of Gerkin building OK

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A structural engineer said on Wednesday morning that he believes that about half of a building damaged by a February fire can be salvaged.

Andy Fendrich of Fendrich Engineering in Springfield visited the site of the Feb. 23 fire about a week and a half after Vandalia officials mandated that a structural engineer look at the building that housed Dennis Gerkin Jr.’s State Farm Insurance agency.

Fendrich, whose assessment of the buildings in the 300 block of West Gallatin Street was arranged through Vandalia Main Street’s affiliation with Illinois Main Street, said he believes that the front half of Gerkin’s building “is not any more dangerous than it was before the fire.”

The front half, he said, “is definitely salvageable. That part of the building is sound.”

The back half of the building, Fendrich said, cannot be salvaged, because of the fire destroyed that part of the structure.

 “With a big wind, the back half could go,” he said.

The cornice at the top of that building appears to loose, but Gerkin said the building was that way before the fire. Fendrich said that part of the building would need to be repaired while remedial work on that and neighboring buildings is done.

In addition to offering an assessment on Gerkin’s building, Fendrich said he has concerns about the remains of the neighboring buildings destroyed by the fire, ones that housed Donaldson’s Carpet, and Gathe’s Tax Service and Accounting.

He is particularly concerned about the west wall of the Gathe building that is still up.

Fendrich said he believes that wind or other factors could cause loose bricks or other remains to end up on the sidewalk in front of those buildings.

“Remedial work needs to be started within 30 days and be done as soon as possible,” Fendrich said.

He told City Code Official Keith Meadows that he was recommending that the city close off the sidewalk and parking areas in that half of the block until the remedial work is completed.

Dana Whiteman, Vandalia Main Street executive director, said Wednesday morning that she was unsure at that time whether Fendrich would charge for his services.

If he does, she said, Landmarks of Illinois will provide Main Street with a $500 grant that will help pay for his services.

Mayor Rick Gottman and the city council told Gerkin at the council’s April 5 meeting that it wanted a report from a structural engineer in time for the April 19 council meeting after Meadows expressed concerns about the stability of the building.

Gerkin told the council that Dennis Grubaugh is interested in purchasing his building, as well as the Donaldson and Gathe properties, and that Grubaugh has the interest in and expertise to rehabilitate his building.

Grubaugh told the council at the April 5 meeting that he would begin working on the cleanup of those properties as soon as he finished a project in Patoka, estimating that that project would take another week and a half or two weeks.