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MAIN STREET — City Council voted to “save” “Chain Reaction” back in February but the sculpture is still cordoned off awaiting repairs.

The Landmarks Commission will consider issuing a certificate next month that would allow for testing in preparation for repairs. Because the mushroom cloud-shaped sculpture is a designated landmark, the commission needs to give its permission before the process can move forward.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad gifted City Hall the sculpture in the early 1990s but in recent years city officials have said it is in need of repair and poses a threat to public safety.

City Hall estimates that the repair costs range from $200,000 to $400,000 but they won’t know for sure until extensive testing is done. Fans of the sculpture say the repairs could be completed for far less than those estimates.

The supporters also raised more than $100,000 through donations which council accepted.

Supporters attended last week’s commission meeting, urging city architects to agendize the item sooner rather than later.

City Architect Miriam Mulder told the supporters and the commission that the future of “Chain Reaction” will be discussed at the Landmark Commission’s Dec. 8 meeting.

“Staff has been working diligently to get all the consultants under contract,” she said.

The plan, she said, will involve testing and analyses of the sculpture.

City architects have said in the past that, in order to know what repairs need to be completed, they’ll likely have to remove the top of the mushroom cap.

Dave Conrad, the son of the late Paul Conrad, wants this to be considered only as a last resort.

“For artwork and landmarks alike, as you know, the correct and prudent approach is to proceed with the least invasive methods of inspection first and to only escalate to the more invasive procedures if it is found necessary,” he told the commission last week. “Removal of the top of the sculpture is the most invasive procedure I can think of. It will only serve to weaken the existing structure.”

He pointed out that a report from a structural engineer contracted by City Hall finds “Chain Reaction” to be sound.

Mel Green, the consultant Conrad was referencing, stated in the report that the sculpture is “not an imminent hazard nor should it be considered dangerous.”

The report noted that the sculpture would be safe for the next 10 years.

Mulder said that Green is one of the consultants that City Hall plans to use as the process moves forward.

Attorney Ken Kutcher, who is working pro bono on behalf of the Conrad family, sent letters to City Hall and the Landmarks Commissioners about the project’s delays, which he called “somewhat ironic, given that some members of City Staff have taken the position that the sculpture may pose a threat to public safety.”

At the meeting, Kutcher noted that when members of the public contribute more than $100,000, they expect to be involved in the process.

Peace activist Jerry Rubin, who has led the charge to save the sculpture, and several other members of the public spoke at the commission meeting, urging city officials to act expediently.

dave@www.smdp.com

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