Thursday, January 30, 2014
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Tourism board discusses plan to repair world's largest covered wagon

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[January 30, 2014]  Tuesday evening, the board of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County met for their monthly meeting. Among the many topics on the agenda was the issue of how to go about getting the world's largest covered wagon repaired after damage on Sunday.

High-velocity winds pushed through Lincoln on Sunday night, and the force of the winds broke the wagon wheels. As a result, the wagon is now sitting at a tilt with what appears to be serious damage to the wheels and also the canopy.

At the Tuesday night meeting, interim director Nancy Saul said there had been many offers to help the tourism bureau get the wagon repaired and back in an upright position.

She noted specifically that she had heard from David Bentley, the builder of the wagon, who said he would be interested in rebuilding the broken parts and getting the wagon back in good condition. It was also mentioned that once the wagon is repaired, it should be repositioned with the front of the wagon facing southward. Doing so would help prevent future incidents with wind.

Bentley also told Saul that when he owned the wagon, he only put the canopy on it for special occasions. He said the best way to show the canopy was to have it in a roll on the wagon.

In addition, Brad Matthews of Matthews Construction is the local contractor who has kept the wagon standing until now. The work he has done on the wagon included adding cross braces to the canopy hoops and doing work to stabilize the wheels. Saul said that Matthews is interested in doing the repair work.

During discussion, Andy Anderson said he thought it would be a good idea for the person who originally built the wagon to help rebuild it now. It was discussed as to whether or not the board might ask Bentley to assist Matthews, but Saul said that in her conversations with Bentley, he didn't sound too excited about working with anyone else.

Anderson then suggested that perhaps the board should go out for bids on the repair. Tom O'Donohue agreed, saying it would be a good idea, plus it would satisfy what will be needed for the insurance company.

The bureau does carry insurance on the wagon, and it is hoped that the repairs can be completed within the coverage amount. It was also mentioned that in seeking bids, the board will want the bidder to provide a timeline for the completion of work as well as a certificate of insurance.

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Saul said she had heard from Bill Kelly with the Route 66 Byway. Kelly had told her his group has a grant program that will assist with repairs to Route 66 attractions. He said there was $500 available for the wagon; all he needed was an email request.

Saul had also heard from Martin Blitstein, the treasurer for the Route 66 Association of Illinois. He had offered the association's help in restoring the wagon. Saul said she asked him what he was offering, a donation or publicity or what, and he had replied he was offering them whatever was needed.

In addition, Bob Rankin of the Logan Railsplitting Association had volunteered to help with the repair if needed.

As the discussions drew to a close, Andi Hake said that whatever the board decides to do, they need to act quickly. She mentioned that by Tuesday, every online media source had covered the collapse of the wagon. She said she didn't want this to drag out.

It was agreed that Saul would prepare a "Request for Proposal" for the restoration of the wagon.

On that same note, Saul has been working on an RFP for the redesign of the tourism website. O'Donohue asked Mayor Keith Snyder if it would be plausible to ask Sue McLaughlin, the city administrator, to work with Saul on getting both RFPs done. He noted that McLaughlin is a professional at preparing such documents, and it would be helpful if she gave advice and input. Snyder said he thought that would be a good idea.

Saul was instructed to contact McLaughlin and make arrangements for the two to meet and review both RFPs.

Because the wagon is in the Guinness World Records, Saul was also instructed to contact that entity about what is going on with the wagon, so as to protect its status in the book.


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