The city’s Board of Works on Monday hired a new contractor to take over the stalled restoration of the side of the Oliphant Building at 214 Main St.

The city last month officially terminated its contract with Schlomer Enterprises, 2670 S. Henderson Road.

After more than a year of waiting, the project is little more than halfway complete. So Mayor Joe Yochum directed city engineer John Sprague to begin legal proceedings to remove Schlomer’s equipment from the Gimbel Corner — where it’s sat, unused, for months — and seek bids from other masons interested in finishing the job.

The city received two, board members learned Monday, one from Walker Masonry, 2815 Marian Drive, for $40,000, and a lower quote from Hendrixson Concrete Construction of Decker for $37,700.

The board opted to award the contract to Hendrixson, and Sprague said they have promised to complete the project — now more than three years in the making — within 45 days.

“I’d like to think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Yochum said.

Sprague had anticipated a third bid, one from Schrock and Sons in Elnora, but the mayor said they opted not to submit one after all.

The side of the six-story Oliphant Building, regarded as the city's first “skyscraper” when it opened in 1917, was left damaged in a December 2011 blaze that destroyed the Gimbel Bond building next door.

The charred ad unsightly wall that remained has been a sore spot for city officials ever since.

City officials in 2016 explored several methods to clean up the downtown eyesore. In early 2017, they awarded an $82,000 contract to Schrock and Sons, but they abandoned it after a year had passed with no actual work being done.

Then, in April of 2018, they went with a lesser contract of $47,000 with Schlomer.

Sprague, however, assured board members on Monday that Schlomer has only been paid for the work so far completed, which, he said, is about 50-60 percent.

In other business, Steve Beaman, superintendent of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said recent rains have pushed back yet again the anticipated celebratory opening of the new pickleball courts at Gregg Park.

A team of volunteers, all of them avid pickleball players, started the project in April, but the weather has caused repeated delays.

Beaman said volunteers are now shooting for an Aug. 3 ribbon cutting.

Gregg Park’s tennis courts were demolished to make way for the six new pickleball courts. New tennis courts, however, will soon be added to some resurfaced courts at Four Lakes Park, which recently got a $350,000 makeover, including a new baseball themed splash pad.

Beaman also reported to board members that thanks to yet another partnership with Good Samaritan Hospital, the city will begin offering free water aerobics classes at Rainbow Beach at 9:30 a.m. on both Mondays and Fridays with GSH intern Sophia Lane.

These are in addition to the free "Fresh Air Fitness" classes currently offered at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Lester Square Park near the outdoor fitness equipment.

Lane, a Lincoln High School graduate, is a senior at Purdue University majoring in kinesiology with a concentration in clinical exercise physiology. She is also a certified personal trainer and will be working alongside Amy Pfoff, the hospital’s manager of outpatient physical medicine and sports performance.

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