One of La Grande’s steepest staircases will see less traffic come this spring.

Woody Hooper is working intensely to make sure of it.

Hooper, a technician for Otis Elevator Company, is helping coordinate the effort to restore and modernize the disabled elevator in the seven-story Sac Annex Building, one installed when the building was built around 1930. He is confident that the elevator, out of commission since last summer, can be up and running by this spring.

“We have seven or eight weeks left,” said Hooper, who arrived from Otis Elevators’ Spokane, Washington, office with two other crew members to take on the repair project.

The elevator at the Sac Annex has been disabled since a lightning strike on June 26, 2017.

Bryan Grimshaw, the Sac Annex building manager, is delighted about the prospect of having the elevator operating again soon.

“It has been a long time,” he said. “We are all pretty excited to get it back.”

He said that many seemingly minor things like moving laundry up and down have become harder since the elevator went out.

A sixth-floor Sac Annex resident, Grimshaw said he is in better condition today because of the extra stair climbing he’s done since last June.

“It is the Sac Annex exercise plan,” he joked.

The three-man Otis crew in charge of restoring the elevator is first removing much of the Sac Annex’s elevator
system while leaving enough of the framework in place to allow it to be operated manually so that equipment can be transported to the top floor. The elevator cannot operate on its own because its controller, a computerized device responsible for the coordination of all aspects of the elevator’s operation, was destroyed by the lightning strike. However, the elevator will run when someone at the top level is operating its controls, Hooper said.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Otis crew is removing the old 2,500-pound motor on top of the building. The motor will have to be hoisted down from an attic-type area above the seventh floor and then placed in the elevator and transported down.

Once the demolition is completed, reconstruction of the elevator system will begin. The final components needed for the repair arrived at the Sac Annex Monday.

All portions of the elevator will be replaced but its car and its rails. The car, which has been in place since the elevator was installed around 1930, has a number of design features reflecting the era it was built in. Hooper is enjoying seeing the historical and old-fashioned mechanical features the Sac Annex elevator has.

“It is neat to see how things operated years ago,” Hooper said.

Completion of the elevator project will conclude a process that has been hindered by a number of delays. Repair work was first held up because an agreement had to be reached between Sac Annex’s insurer, Nationwide Insurance, and Otis Elevator Company, which manufactured the building’s elevator. A settlement was agreed to in August.

Next, a new computerized controller for the elevator had to be made to replace the one destroyed by the lightning strike. The plans for the new controller were completed in November and then approved by Otis Elevator Company, which then began building the controller.

Hooper said that the Sac Annex elevator last received a new controller in the early 1990s.

The Sac Annex has about 20 commercial tenants on floors one to three and 48 apartments on floors four to seven. Approximately 40 of the apartments currently have tenants. Grimshaw said that some residents have moved since the elevator went out but their apartments have not been re-rented. He explained that without the elevator it is difficult to get paint and cleaning equipment up to vacant rooms so they can be refurbished before being rented out again.

The trials brought on by the elevator breakdown has often brought out the best in tenants. Grimshaw is impressed with how they continue to take steps like helping each other carry items up and down the stairs.

“We have a good group of tenants. Everybody gives a hand to make things work,” Grimshaw said.