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Black Hawk repairs are on hold in Oregon

Contractor declines to sign contract, citing differences with engineer

OREGON – A conflict over how much is too much has brought a halt to repairs to the iconic, 105-year-old Black Hawk Statue that overlooks the Rock River.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the statue because it’s in Lowden State Park, is looking for a general contractor to replace Andrzej Dajnowski of Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park, whose contract was not renewed.

“No timeline has been established yet for when work might be restarted,” IDNR Communications Director Chris Young said in an email last week.

Dajnowski said he declined to sign the contract the IDNR sent him for this year because it stipulated that the repairs be done in a way to which he could not agree.

“They hired an engineer who wanted to remove more of the surface of the statue than necessary,” Dajnowsk said. “Ethically, that’s not acceptable. I’m a conservator, she’s an engineer.”

The engineer, Amy Lamb Woods from Simpson Gumperta & Heger, a Chicago-based engineering firm that designs, investigates, and rehabilitates structures and building enclosures, referred questions about the project to Young.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever walked away from a contract,” Dajnowski said. “It took 7 years to get to this point.”

The new contract also did not compensate him for the scaffolding that surrounds and protects the statue.

“I could not work for one more year with no additional money for the scaffolding,” he said.

Most of the scaffolding belongs to Dajnowski, but he rents some of it. Green plastic mesh is wrapped around it to protect the statue from the elements, particularly winter weather, and to prevent further damage.

The scaffolding has been in place since December 2014, when Dajnowski and his crew built it around the 50-foot-tall concrete statue, put a roof over it, and then enclosed it in the mesh.

Dajnowski charges $75 a day for the scaffolding, which the Dillon Foundation in Sterling is paying, he said.

“It’s not about the cost — it’s about protecting the sculpture. I can’t take it down and walk away. Without protection, it will be exposed to the elements.”

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 as a tribute to all Native Americans, the statue stands on a 125-foot bluff overlooking and draws thousands of visitors each year. It was unveiled and dedicated in 1911.

The effects of time and weather have caused parts of the statue to crumble and fall off.

Dajnowski had high praise for the foundation and for Frank Rausa, who spearheaded the effort to have the statue repaired.

Rausa and his wife, Cherron, of Sterling head Friends of the Black Hawk Statue, a nonprofit organization formed about 7 years ago to develop a plan and raise the $900,000 needed for repairs. Most of the money has been raised, but a large portion of that was to come from a $350,000 grant the IDNR received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The budget stalemate is holding the grant hostage.

“The state can’t issue any checks until the budget is passed, so we’ve used a lot of our money,” Frank Rausa said Tuesday.

He plans a trip to Springfield this week to see if some of the money can be released and to find out more about how the IDNR plans to replace Dajnowski.

Other than the grant, money for repairs came from donations, as well as funds raised during the annual Oregon Trail Days festival held at Lowden Park from 2010-2014.

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