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Fire damage still disrupting business at Town Hall


Election, board meeting moves to other locations



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February 09, 2011 | 08:58 AM
Geneva — As if the record-setting blizzard Feb. 2 wasn't enough to contend with, a town police squad car burst into flames at 6 a.m. The blaze ignited the top of the stairs leading into the foundation of the Town Hall, the former home to the Town Police Department.

Smoke damage prompted officials to close the hall. After ServiceMaster finished the cleanup Friday, the Town Hall reopened.

"However, after the weekend, the burn odor has returned and the employees are not doing well in there," Geneva Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale said Monday afternoon. "So the Town Hall is closed again."

In an early morning e-mail Tuesday, Lauderdale stated he received a call from Supervisor Keith Millard around 10 a.m. about working conditions at the Town Hall.

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"Apparently, certain employees were complaining of illness sustained as a result of the odor at the Town Hall," he stated.

Lauderdale stated Building Inspector Audrey Boss contacted him about 20 minutes later "expressing similar concerns." He went to the Town Hall Monday about 11 a.m.

"There is still an odor," he stated. "Will we ever totally rid ourselves of that odor remains to be seen."

Lauderdale said ServiceMaster is returning to replace the Town Hall ceiling tiles.

He said most functions which normally would take place at the hall won't resume until possibly Friday.

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According to Lauderdale, ServiceMaster received the authority to "demolish the charred portion underneath the Police Department" and will use "exhaust fan processes" throughout the week.

Now, the handling of town business will occur under the same procedure used after the fire last week — with Lauderdale and other officials routinely checking messages at the hall. Elkhorn Fire Chief Rod Smith has tested carbon monoxide levels at the Town Hall and is expected to do so regularly, according to Lauderdale.

This recent setback has prompted two meetings set for Wednesday to move from the hall to the Lake Como Sanitary District building at N3420 Dell Place.

Lauderdale said the Geneva National Sanitary District and regular Town Board meeting will take place there, at 6:45 and 7 p.m., respectively.

He said the reintroduction of a resolution about the proposed fire/EMS substation may occur at the board meeting.

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As for the Tuesday, Feb. 15 primary, Lauderdale said Town Clerk-Treasurer Deb Kirch is working with the Walworth County clerk's office on preparations to move the poll site to the Como Community Church, W3901 Palmer Road.

Meanwhile, Lauderdale said he hasn't seen an estimate for the cost of the damage.

He said authorities are investigating the cause of the fire, but it's not suspected to be criminal in nature. However, in a Feb. 2 e-mail, Lauderdale offered this statement.

"As it stands right now, the fire which destroyed the 2005 Chevrolet Blazer resulted from the accumulation of snow underneath and within the engine compartment, from lack of proper ventilation," he stated. "Unfortunately, the town has no garage facility by which to house its squad during these weather conditions. The squad had been left idling within the parking lot as is customary for our agency.

The officers on duty were within the building doing paperwork, recognized an abnormal smell and responded to find that the squad was ablaze."

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Lauderdale stated the Blazer was being phased into a "nonworking squad" to be shared by town officials to use for errands and training purposes.

"Fortunately, most of the police equipment had been removed just last week and it was only being utilized on that evening because of the inclement weather conditions," he stated.

The other four wheel-drive squad was "being serviced" during the time of the fire, and only two Dodge Charger squads were available.

According to Lauderdale, police used the Ford F-350 plow truck for emergency responses only during the storm.

Although the fire damage has affected the offices of the Police Department, the clerk/treasurer, building inspector and municipal court, people can still make property tax payments in the drop box near the hall's rear entrance.

Lauderdale said it could've been worse.

"The town was again very fortunate to have had the services of the city of Elkhorn Fire Department and the city of Lake Geneva Fire Department," he stated. "Somehow, those entities were able to salvage the very valuable records of the town and many, many of the tax payments that had been received within the past few days. I thank both for their efforts during these terrible weather conditions. God has once again blessed the town of Geneva."

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