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July 15, 2014 | 02:31 PM
Construction techniques were discussed and facades reviewed for a proposed downtown Lake Geneva parking structure at the first ad hoc parking structure committee meeting on July 10.

The committee had its introductory meeting at city hall with consultant Steve Roloff of Arnold & O'Sheridan, consulting engineers, Brookfield. And the committee seems aiming to getting a referendum question ready for the Nov. 2 ballot, even as it prepares information for city voters.

The committee's immediate goal is to generate a project cost that the city must not exceed in building the parking ramp. Roloff said the initial cost estimate for the parking structure is $6.9 million for the project.

"Don't confuse total project costs with construction costs," Roloff warned.

It will be important to have the total project cost on the referendum ballot, he said.

Of the total project cost, 80 percent would be for construction, with the remaining 20 percent set aside for fees, contingencies and unexpected problems that add to the construction costs.

The proposed ramp site is what is called the Cook Street lot, behind the Geneva Theater.

Roloff and Lake Geneva architect Ken Etten proposed that the committee refer to the proposed elevated parking garage as the Geneva Street Parking Ramp.

The entrance and exit to the structure would be off Geneva Street, Etten said.

Roloff said he wants the committee to meet three times this month, with a final referendum-ready figure prepared by July 31.

The next parking committee meeting will be 2 p.m. July 24 at city hall, followed by the third meeting a week later.

The 11-member ad hoc committee was named last month by Mayor Jim Connors and approved by the city council.

In order to get the parking structure proposal on the ballot, the city must submit a referendum question to the county clerk's office in early August.

The drop dead cutoff is Aug. 12.

But City Administrator Dennis Jordan told the Lake Geneva City Council that the question should be submitted by Aug. 7 to give the county clerk's office an opportunity to review the question and for any revisions or corrections that might be necessary.

By ordinance, any project costing more than $1.01 million must be approved by city electors.

The city's joint parking commission and public works committee recommended hiring Arnold & O'Sheridan as the engineering consultant for the parking structure at a joint meeting on June 9.

Roloff, who made the presentation to the joint commission-committee meeting on behalf of Arnold & O'Sheridan, recommended creation of an ad hoc committee of interested citizens and council members to bring suggestions and recommendations for the parking structure.

At the meeting, Roloff and Etten showed committee members a variety of exteriors that can make the parking structure more appealing than just some horizontal concrete levels separated by supports.

Roloff said designers can camouflage the outside of the structure so it looks like a retail or office building.

But those exterior touches add cost, he warned.

He estimated that, depending on the additions and options the city might decide to add to the parking structure, the cost per parking stall would range from $9,700 to $19,000.

Roloff said maintenance for a parking structure is about 35 cents per square foot per year.

A parking ramp is more than just parking space, it also has electrical wiring and lighting, it may have an elevator and other mechanical and electronic devices that will need regular repair and replacement.

Roloff said the city will have to decide on two major issues facing the proposed parking structure.

The first has to do with zoning.

Although downtown structures may build lot line to lot line on the front and sides, a 10-foot set back is required at the rear of the parking structure, Roloff said.

He suggested the city immediately notify its zoning board of appeals about acquiring a variance.

Roloff said loss of those 10 lineal feet over four levels would conceivably mean a loss of 40 parking spaces, cutting the maximum from 320 to 280.

That issue does not have to be reviewed by the board of appeals immediately, but a variance will be needed if the city wants its parking structure to cover the entire 160-by-170-foot lot, Roloff said.

The second issue the committee will have to decide is whether the structure will be built on site or pre-fabricated and then assembled on the site.

A structure built on site, called a cast-in-place structure, means that concrete making the key components of the building is poured on-site.

Cast-in-place requires work be done during the regular construction season, spring and summer, which is Lake Geneva's prime tourist and parking season.

The concrete must cure out in the open, which requires good weather, Roloff said.

Prefabricated, or precast structures, have components of the building cast off site.

They are then transported to the construction and fit together, Roloff said.

Precast construction can be done late in the season, fall and early winter, because the concrete sections are cured inside before being shipped off for construction, he said.

Alderman Bob Kordus, a committee member, said he, for one, would prefer cast in place, regardless of the disruptions it would cause for one season.

Kordus said the cast-in-place was a superior construction process that resulted in a building that would last 50 years or longer with less maintenance.

The city could work around the loss of the Cook Street lot for one season, he said, temporarily creating parking further out on the edges of the city and using shuttles to bring visitors into the city business district.

Bathrooms were debated for about 20 minutes. Committee member Ruth Hackman said she hoped that the parking ramp would also have restrooms.

But that idea ran into resistance from other committee members.

While conceding that the downtown area suffers from a lack of potty facilities, committee members said that is a separate problem that the city, chamber of commerce and downtown business association will have to address.

The problems with bathrooms is that they're enclosed and complicate security at the parking structure, Roloff said. In addition, that would add the cost of plumbing to the building.

He recommended against adding restrooms to the parking structure.

A 45-minute tour of the parking garage site was also made following the meeting.

Bob Kordus said the tour was primarily to cover surface features, such as an electrical service box, that would have an impact on the structure.

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