VALPARAISO | The Porter County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to spend another $90,000 on maintenance at the 120-year-old Memorial Opera House, boosting the total cost of the most recent repair job to $315,000.
Berglund Construction, of Chesterton, is slated to receive an additional $75,000 of the local income tax revenue and $15,000 is being paid to the Northbrook, Ill.-based architectural/engineering firm of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates.
The commissioners declared an emergency in December that allowed them to bypass the bidding process to hire Berglund for up to $225,000 to address water infiltration problems threatening the opera house at 104 E. Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.
The county found itself in a race to beat the winter weather because major maintenance work approved the year before as part of a disputed $250,000 infusion of income tax revenue for the Opera House was never carried out, according to financial records requested from Porter County auditor's office. All of the money was used for operational costs, rather than just half as originally planned.
Business Director Michelle Smith said Wednesday that Berglund has done a thorough job of stopping the water infiltration problem that was the result of gutter failures and repairing the damage done to trusses and the bricks on the west side of the building.
"They really went into depth with this," she said.
The roof also was replaced, along with four water-damaged doors and door hardware throughout the building, Smith said.
Berglund employees are voluntarily repairing a sign commemorating the Grand Army of the Republic, which built the structure, she said. The company also donated a $1,200 faux brick backdrop for performances.
A maintenance plan is in the works and Smith knew of no other repair jobs of this size on the horizon. She is collecting quotes to repair the dome window on the front of the building. The wooden frame needs rebuilding and glass panels need to be replaced.
Efforts are underway to secure grants to reduce the need to continue asking the county for money, Smith said. But she said the county has a responsibility to maintain the structure both because it owns it and because it is a national historic monument.
"We have to preserve historic monuments," she said.