Mine subsidence work continues at Wolf Branch Middle School
An architectural firm that will soon be helping Swansea’s Wolf Branch District 113 has experience building a new school for a Belleville district after its old one was damaged by mine subsidence.
District 113 School Board members on Monday chose Ittner Architects to help with either saving the school or building a new one.
Ittner previously worked with Belle Valley District 119.
The old Belle Valley North elementary school was damaged by subsidence around 2007. District 119 eventually moved students out, and Ittner helped construct a new building in an area where no mines were detected, according to Belle Valley Superintendent R.Dane Gale.
Gale said SCI Engineering, Inc. drilled to search for mines before the new Belle Valley School was built in a different location.
At Wolf Branch Middle School, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been drilling to determine the extent of the abandoned mine there. Brent Guttmann, an IDNR civil engineer, said they had drilled at 24 places and found 13 mine voids as of Tuesday.
“That’s approximately what we expected to find,” he said. “We do have portions of the school that are definitely undermined, and that is the cause of the damage to the building at this point.”
Board president Bob Lonsdale said Wolf Branch District 113 could eventually negotiate a contract with Ittner to either repair the middle school or to demolish it to make way for a new building. But their first job will be to turn the heat back on to portions of the building so that water in the pipes doesn’t freeze in the winter, according to Lonsdale.
Over the summer, the building will also need cooling, he said, so the walls don’t develop mold.
Wolf Branch’s school board will negotiate a contract with fees for that work at a later date.
Photographer Steve Nagy contributed to this report.