“Chain Reaction” may briefly be renamed “Reaction” if the Landmarks Commission approves recommendations from a consultant.

The aging sculpture, located on Main Street, needs testing, city officials say, in order to avoid a possible public safety hazard and City Hall’s consultant recommends removing all chains and parts of the fiberglass shell.

Because it’s a designated landmark, any changes made on the structure need approval from the Landmarks Commission, which will consider the proposed testing Monday night.

The sculpture was gifted to City Hall by the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad in the early 1990s. It depicts a 26-foot-tall mushroom cloud made of chains.

In 2011, city officials expressed concern that rust build-up and other wear-and-tear could compromise the integrity of the structure.

Some estimated repair costs at $400,000 but a 2012 study from a City Hall-hired consultant noted that “Chain Reaction” was “not an imminent hazard.” It was not conclusive about the status of an interior support structure, city planners said.

City Council had initially asked supporters ‚Äî who call themselves “The Chain Gang” ‚Äî to fundraise the entire cost of repairs, which the Chain Gang complained was hard to do without a set target amount.

Ultimately, they raised more than $100,000. Council voted to accept the contribution and cover the additional costs, whatever they end up being.

That was a year ago, and the Chain Gain has since grown restless. They want City Hall to get on with the repairs so that the chain link fence around the sculpture can come down. They also want City Hall to avoid removing the sculpture’s mushroom cap top, noting that it would be an overly invasive procedure.

“The preferred method of evaluation includes the safe removal of all chains and selective portions of the fiberglass shell to allow access to structural connections that have not been observed,” city planners said in a memo to the Landmarks Commission.

This evaluation, city planners said, would gain access to and perform tests on parts of the structure that were not accessible during the 2012 study.

“The goal is to perform the least invasive and minimum number of tests required to ascertain its structural status,” city planners said.
The art conservator firm Rosa Lowinger and Associates suggests, among other things, the removal and documentation of any affected chain links and the testing of fiberglass reinforcement.

“This phase of the analysis assumes that full removal of the chains and partial removal of the existing fiberglass will provide adequate access to complete all necessary testing,” city planners said. “If this assumption proves untrue, the conservation team has drafted a contingency plan of action.”

The contingency plan, which would have to go back before the commission for a second approval, would likely involve the removal of the mushroom cap — a process that many have noted in the past would be costly.

If the commission approves the currently-proposed testing, the firm will have a year to complete the changes.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at City Hall, 1685 Main St.

dave@smdp.com

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