In an effort to tackle an extensive project slated for the Homewood Science Center, Homewood officials and south suburban contributors have turned to a creative approach.
The Homewood Science Center, located at 18022 Dixie Highway, is in need of electrical service upgrades and renovations that could cost close to $200,000. To keep the costs minimal, village staff established a partnership with the Homewood Science Center Board and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for donations of material, support references and in-kind services, according to village documents.
It only made sense to turn toward these partnerships since the building is used for the public good, said Edie Dobrez, executive director of the Homewood Science Center.
“We only have so much funding and (the village) only has so much funding, so (we said) let's work together and that’s really what's been happening with this project,” she said. “It’s not only upgrading the amount of service we’re getting but it’s also upgrading the actual lighting itself and the fixtures.”
IBEW has offered “the most substantial cost savings'' for the project, offering volunteer labor through the union’s apprenticeship program, according to the village.
Apprentice laborers and volunteers will install new electric service to the Michael Wexler Theater and other sections of the building. The theater is used for the center’s programming, professional development activities and corporate meetings.
The union also recommended contractor Meany Electric Inc. of Hazel Crest, a “reputable company with local roots,” according to John Schaefer, director of public works. Meany Electric will serve as the lead contractor for the project.
Elbert Walters, from IBEW Local 134, said IBEW has a history of volunteering its services to philanthropic causes. He hopes this project will spur interest in the electrical industry and in the union's apprenticeship program. The five-year program combines work and in-class instruction. He also said IBEW wants to continue a partnership with the Homewood Science Center beyond the stint of the project.
"We're stilling working out the details but we're committed to helping out Homewood," he said. "Not only just the science center but the community itself."
The first and most critical step in the project is to upgrade the electrical service that provides power to the center, according to the village. This involves upgrading the switch gear that accepts electricity from ComEd’s distribution pole to the building. The village’s partnership with Meany Electric allowed the cost of this initial phase of work to be $28,000. Meany Electric has also agreed to supply materials and licensed electricians needed to oversee IBEW’s apprentice laborers.
Village staff, the science center board and IBEW were also able to secure material donations from Allied Tube and Conduit Corporation of Harvey, which will be useful throughout the life of the project, said Dobrez. Additional material donations have come from Helsel Jepperson Electric of Chicago Heights, according to the village.
In addition, Knowledge Exchange, a non-credit program for seniors based at Governors State University, has pledged $3,000 for light fixtures in the Michael Wexler Theater.
“It’s humbling how generous people in the South Suburbs are and (to see) what you can do when you work together,” Dobrez said. “None of us could do this on our own but if we work together we could really make things happen and it’s for the community.”
According to Patrick McAneney, Homewood's assistant public works director, there isn’t a start date for the project.
The science center is located in what originally was the home of community leader Fred Gold and his family. The home was the first residence to receive municipal water service in 1911. It housed a book collection that was a precursor to the Homewood Public Library, and it served as a funeral home for more than half a century.