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Knox College and the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center Renovation Project

The magnificent, massive 55-foot skeleton of a rare Finn whale will be displayed in the atrium of the finished Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center in Galesburg’s Knox College, but in the midst of the complex’s construction, it’s the backbone of hard-working Local Union 25 craftsman who are creating the building’s solid foundation.

LU25 Knox College Project

Over two dozen union members are hard at work on the $43 million, 30,000 square foot project, aiming for a finishing date of Thanksgiving 2019, and in an edifice dedicated to the study of science and mathematics those union workers are utilizing their skills and more to make sure the project is of the highest quality.

The project to rebuild the multi-tiered building, featuring four separate wings – dedicated to Psychology, Biology, Mathematics and Computer Science -- splitting from a central hub, began in December 2018, and has been moving along brilliantly, said Local Union 25 member Mike Landon, the Business Agent for Local 25 Plumbers & Pipefitters for the project.

“It took a while at the beginning, doing a lot of demo, getting rid of the old equipment and piping to prepare for the remodel and renovation of the whole building. But we’re very happy with the progress and the pipefitters from Warner Mechanical have been doing a great job.”

Plumbers, pipefitters, electricians, carpenters, and other crafts are among those cooperating to bring the project to fruition, Landon added.

“That’s my job, to pull in the guys to work, it’s what I do and I really like it,” Landon said. “This job has meant a lot of good work, it’s exciting. It’s great to see these old buildings that have been around for a while get renovated and look better than ever. It’s terrific for the community and just helps the whole appearance of the college and the city of Galesburg as a whole, having a brand-new spot that just makes the city look even better.”

“The update really needed to be done, mainly from a mechanical perspective,” agreed Brian Rumpf, senior project manager from PJ Hoerr, a general contractor out of Peoria involved in the project. “It’s a great project to be a part of and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

“The job has been great so far, and we’re really looking forward to seeing it through to completion,” said Garrett Johnson, the 12-year plumbing veteran and foreman plumber for Mechanical Service Inc. of Galesburg who is on the project. “The majority of the first phase was the carpenters’ demo, and then we got started. Most of our work will be in the spring and early summer. It feels great to be a part of it.”

The project is starting with the main portion of the building, which they’re currently working on, and then will move to the different wings one at a time, Johnson said. The job features a distinct set of challenges, the largest of which is completing certain aspects of it while classes are still in session and hundreds of students, professors and staff are still occupying the areas.

“There are a lot of logistical issues we have to work on,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a challenge to replace the pipes under the lecture halls and main space while still keeping the old ones in place to function for the people still here, but we’ll do it, one thing at a time.” The end result will be impressive and built to last, he added.

“The buildings were completed in 1971, so we have to replace all the pipes, everything is being replaced, 100 percent, down to and under the concrete,” Johnson said. “So when we get done she’s going to be brand new and ready to go!”

And when all their hard work is completed, the finishing touch will be decorating this brand new complex with a very old relic, to give it even more character – that rare Finn whale skeleton.

“They’re very rare from what I understand, and they got really lucky getting this one,” Landon said. “It washed up on the beach in New Hampshire after Hurricane Sandy a while back, and they put in a bid and were able to get it. It’s definitely going to make the place stand out and look unique.”

So will the work of the talented craftsmen of Local Union 25 Plumbers and Pipefitters.