What’s next for Pekin Township after its building collapsed?
More than a month after a partial collapse on one side of the building, the remaining half of the Pekin Township office remains closed to the public.
Township Supervisor Shannon Saal said that’s made it a challenge for them to provide the services they offer.
“Per the state statute, we provide general assistance, emergency assistance, a food pantry, senior meals and activities, summer lunch,” Saal said. “We also provide different various food MRE’s (meals ready to eat) for our homeless that come in. Or for the ones that possibly have had a fire, we have had items that we can donate to them so that they can get back up and running.”
Since the Sept. 9 collapse that led to the eventual demolition of the 418 Elizabeth St. side of the building, the 420 Elizabeth office space has been without heat and water.
“However, the employees and I, we do come in here we check the messages,” Saal said. “The phone lines are on (and) we get messages returned. So like a general assistance application, we mail that out to them. If they need an emergency assistance application, we mail that out to them.
“So that way, we are still providing the necessary services that the township is for," she said. "We will be also launching a Facebook information page to keep the public updated on what we will be currently doing.”
Saal said the township employs eight paid staff members and another 8-10 volunteers each month. She said they had been working remotely in the immediate aftermath of the collapse.
Saal said they’re still only at the office for a couple hours each weekday, and not having the building fully open has made things difficult.
“It impacted the Pekin Township residents severely, because we are a warming center as well,” she said. “We have people that come in here and sit in our lobby, and they’re able to sit down and rest and get a hot cup of coffee. Or in the summertime, they’re able to get some water when it’s very warm outside.”
Saal said the portion that remains is structurally sound, and she hopes the utilities can be restored within the next couple of weeks. She said other repairs eventually will need to be addressed as well.
“The common wall, which is on the west side of the building, it has to be infilled, and we have to get emergency lighting for the exit signs,” she said, adding she couldn’t estimate when the work would be completely finished or what the total expense might be.
“I don’t know the cost as of right now, and I am looking into writing some grants to get some grant money,” she said.
Also undetermined as yet is what will be done with the now-vacant space on the 418 side.
“We will not be doing anything with that until probably next spring or the summer, due to the fact of the cold coming, the winter weather,” Saal said. “What we would like to do, the board members and I have talked about this, is try to give that to our food pantry. So, possibly have that as a food pantry building and possibly, if we can, have that as a drive-thru food pantry like at St. Vincent de Paul.”
Saal said the township resumed its regular 9-11 a.m. Wednesday drive-up food pantry last week. She also said their plans for the upcoming holiday season remain on track.
“We will continue to have our Thanksgiving meal and our Christmas meal, along with our ‘Spirit of Christmas,’” she said. “So if there’s anyone that would like, we will have some forms – I will post that on Facebook – where they could come down here and my assistant will give out a form for the kids, because we don’t want any child to not have a present to open on Christmas morning.”