Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Remove Images

An asset in the making?
Subcommittee investigates whether to build a new village hall in Genoa City

by Steve Targo

April 04, 2013

GENOA CITY — "I think our current facility, at best, it's drab."

That's what Karen Bullock said on the phone Friday about the village hall. She said its basement is "horrendous" and talked about concerns such as asbestos, air quality and a leaky roof.

Bullock, a village trustee, also is the chairwoman of the Village Hall Subcommittee, which was created by the village board last fall.

Its task: To recommend fixing the current village hall, either simply bringing it up to code or completely refurbishing it, or building a new one.

Bullock said it is the largest project she has ever been involved in.

So she did some homework. She talked to Bill Lehner, superintendent of the Brookwood School District. She said she consulted with Brandon Foss, of the village's engineering firm, Crispell-Snyder, and the heads of village departments.

"It's a huge project, such a huge undertaking, that you want to get it done right the first time," Bullock said.

The subcommittee also toured the Lake Geneva City Hall and village halls in Fontana and Williams Bay. They also toured municipal buildings in Mount Pleasant and Silver Lake, and ventured into Illinois to walk through the village halls in Spring Grove and Richmond.

"During the tours we took, there were two things that came up many times," Bullock stated in an email after the interview. "One was the issue of storage. Every place that we went stressed the importance of having enough storage and we saw a variety of ways to deal with that. Most places really had problems with storage."

While on these tours, people suggested the subcommittee go out and look at more municipal buildings, Bullock said. Other trips are planned for the near future, she said.

"I think that is an important takeaway because if we can learn from others about what not to do, that is a pretty inexpensive lesson," she stated.

When asked how long before the subcommittee will present a recommendation to the board, Bullock said the project won't linger.

"We are taking it one step at a time, moving forward steadily and thoughtfully," she stated. "At this time, we are nearing the completion of the first phase, to gather information."

Then, the subcommittee will consult with engineers.

But right now, it's a work in progress, Bullock said. However, "there should be no reason why we wouldn't have something to share at Genoa City Days," the Genoa City Lions Club's three-day festival which typically occurs the first weekend of August, she said.

For now, on April 4, the subcommittee will meet to talk about layout and design ideas. Photos from the tours are up on a website Bullock said should be going live this week.

"We want this to be a really transparent project," she said. "We want people to be informed about this project and we want people to be excited."

Bullock said although the committee members are trying to keep options open, she doesn't feel fixing the current village hall is a realistic option.

"There is no one problem that's prompted this," she said. "There are a multitude of problems with the current facility."

Bad shape

In December, the subcommittee created a lengthy list of those issues, which was sent out with village tax bills.

Issues range from outdated network systems to spacial.

For the latter, in the case of the village board needing to hold a closed session meeting, the general public has to wait outside.

Same as when court is holding a closed juvenile proceeding. Then there's that basement. It is believed that asbestos is in the tiles and is wrapped around the pipes.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues is space for the police department. Records and evidence are stored in the basement, which isn't climate-controlled and has moisture problems. There is no way to quarantine evidence, which might contain pollutants or blood.

There is no interview, detainment or even shower rooms for the police department.

"Even in village halls we (toured) that we felt were less than optimal, they have more space for their police departments," Bullock said.

Although the public isn't allowed in the basement, it's where office supplies and records are stored. Upstairs, there isn't enough space for more than one meeting at a time. Even if that weren't the case, Bullock said, it's an outdated building, and its electrical system isn't up to code.

The building also doesn't meet the Americans With Disabilities Act mandates.

So, "if you touch one thing," she said, "you have to touch everything."

Suppose the subcommittee recommends building a new village hall, and the village board follows that idea.

"What would be done with the current property? That's a question mark," Bullock said.

She also said the village owns land across from Genoa Liquors & Video, 413 Walworth St.

Or, as former trustee and member of the subcommittee David Burton suggested, the village could possibly find an existing building, Bullock said.

However, as the subcommittee and village board proceed, perhaps the most crucial aspect is going to be financial.

That's why the end of the village's Tax Incremental Financing district is going to be viewed extra favorably this year.

Genoa City created a TIF district in the 1990s to earmark property tax revenue from assessed value increases to fund capital improvements.

Village officials, Bullock included, have said the TIF district is one reason for Genoa City's current tax rate.

But at the end of 2013, the district will be paid off, and the tax rate should decrease, she said.

But the new village hall wouldn't eat up all of those savings.

Bullock said she doesn't want people to believe subcommittee or village board members are considering some sort of Taj Mahal. Or, she said, even a Mount Pleasant Village Hall.

The subcommittee is tasked with finding "the most economical way" possible to address the village hall problem, she said.

Bullock said she sees a village hall as a center for the community.

"This community could be so much more," Bullock said. "It's not about a village hall, but it would be neat to be able to have a place where people can meet. It just could be such an asset to the community."