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Stroger Lets County Workers Return to Fire Site

Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

The first Cook County employees are scheduled to return to work at 69 W. Washington St. Wednesday, one day after County Board President John Stroger delayed the move while asking the city for written assurance that the building met code requirements.

Stroger, who has an executive office on the 35th floor, the building's highest occupied level, plans to lead the return to the building where six workers died in a fire Oct. 17.

The move had been scheduled Tuesday, but Stroger called it off after the city declined to write a letter saying the building had passed inspections by the Fire and Buildings Departments.

City officials reiterated Tuesday that they don't put in writing that a building has passed an inspection. Fire Commissioner James Joyce told Stroger that Tuesday.

"The president spoke with Commissioner Joyce and was assured that letters of this nature are not issued, so the decision was made to move back into the building," said Caryn Stancik, Stroger's spokeswoman.

Stroger's staff received the same information from the Department of Buildings. The city's Law Department backed up the position of the other departments, a spokeswoman said.

"We did not deem it appropriate for them to deviate from their normal procedures in this case," Law Department spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle said.

City officials had said Monday that nothing prevented the county from reoccupying floors 30 through 35, which is the plan for Wednesday and Friday.

In a letter to the county Oct. 20, the Department of Buildings said it required confirmation in three safety areas.

According to the letter, the city wanted confirmation that the building was structurally sound and that there were no problems with the exterior facade, "including safety of window mountings, directly attributable to the fire."

Finally, the city wanted an environmental consultant to confirm that no hazardous chemicals or pathogens were in the air as a result of the fire.

Next week, the first six floors are to be reopened, including a day care center on two floors.

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