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Costs get county called on carpet
RUG REPLACEMENT | Seal on new flooring gets royal treatment

Friday, June 26, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Taxpayers are footing the bill for the new, brilliant blue carpeting in the lobby of the Cook County building. But officials don't want them treading on a giant logo woven into it.

So blue velvet roping cordons off the single Cook County seal that faces the County Building's entrance at 118 N. Clark.

"It does remind me of a museum," said Cook County Commissioner Peter N. Silvestri, a suburban Republican, who like other commissioners had not been informed of the rug purchase, but saw it this week.

Indeed, the seal is getting royal treatment. After all, it cost nearly one-third of the $5,364.43 price tag.

Gabe's Installation Services, which has an ongoing contract with the county, installed the carpeting.

A copy of the invoice shows the county paid $1,633.33 for logo work. Another $800 is on the invoice for variety of carpet colors, but it's unclear whether those are for the logo.

Asked why the county needs a new, fancy rug, James Ramos, a spokesman for Cook County President Todd Stroger, said: "The old rug was in bad shape, to the point where people were tripping on the rug."

And that could make the county vulnerable to costly injury lawsuits, he said.

But wear and tear weren't the only reasons for roping off the area around the seal.

Turns out that the old rug also had a seal, and vandals had carved the C's in "Cook" and "County" out of the seal, said James Damico, director of Cook County's facilities management office.

"The seal itself was vandalized," Damico said, noting that people who come through aren't always the happiest souls as they make their way to settle tax bills and other issues.

The Cook County sheriff's deputy on regular duty in the building also will be asked to keep an eye on the seal.

Damico also said it's standard for mats and rugs, complete with government seals, to lie in the entryways of the county's buildings, not to mention at City Hall.

But a check of the other three main entrances in the building the county shares with City Hall shows only dark gray, nondescript utility rugs cover the flooring.

"We need to make absolutely sure that expenditures like this are absolutely necessary," said Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, a suburban Republican. "It's terrazzo flooring. Why do we have to cover terrazzo flooring, especially in the summer?"

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