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NORMAL - It looks like the Heartland Community College Workforce Development Center faces another possible delay.

From its infancy the $23 million project has been beleaguered by holdups - from state funding delays to slowdowns in steel delivery.

The latest snag is a soil settlement issue around various points of 110,000-square-foot building's basement walls. While officials say it doesn't endanger the structure, the problem has to be investigated and may delay the opening, scheduled for late next year.

When complete, the work force center will house classrooms and labs to provide training and technical assistance for workers adapting to changes in the economy.

Prior to construction, soil is tamped down around a building site to support the weight of the future structure, usually with no detrimental effects, said Dave Blanchette, spokesman for the state's Capital Development Board. The state agency is working with Heartland on the center's construction.

"It's a problem with the backfill material adjacent to the basement section. - A third party is reviewing the situation," said Rob Widmer, Heartland's business and finance vice president.

"At this point it has not impacted the work schedule," said Widmer.

Though work continues with crews pouring elevated slabs on the second and third floor and contractors handling exterior masonry, the latest problem likely will push the fall 2007 opening back at least a month, possibly more.

The situation isn't grave, said Travis Baker, project manager for general contractor English Bros., of Champaign.

"There's no failure of footings or foundation here," he said. "I think it'll prove to be more cosmetic repairs."

Investigators continue to examine the cause and required remedy, he added. He's not sure what costs will be associated with fixing the problem.

Just what the settling issue means to the center's construction schedule is unclear, said Blanchette.

"We'll know in a few weeks. But it's too early to tell at this point," he said.

A forensic architect is examining the problem to determine the cause, said Travis Baker, site manager for English Bros.

The building's project team - made up of representatives of the state board and the contractor - found the problem in December, said Blanchette.

Baker said the construction team first discovered plumbing pipes were penetrating the basement wall in a few spots. Crews put a wire camera down through the sewer lines, finding the pipes had settled into the soil.

The architect, engineers, and members of the state board, like Baker, are stumped as to the cause.

"Everyone says it's the first time they've ever seen it," Baker said. "I have a superintendent out there who has been in the business 30 years. And he's never seen anything like it either."

Progress of construction can be seen on the college's Workforce Development Center Webcam at www.heartland.edu.

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