Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Group wants project in voters' hands
Genoa City petition has enough signatures, one says, but hasn't been filed yet

by Steve Targo

July 11, 2013

GENOA CITY — Should projects that cost a half-million dollars or more be approved by village voters or the officials they elected into office?

That's a question board members may have to answer in the near future.

A group of Genoa City residents are circulating a petition which calls for direct legislation.

Basically, the group is proposing an ordinance which, if adopted, would require all construction-related, municipally-funded projects that cost $500,000 or more to be decided on by referendum.

"I already have enough signatures," said group member Heidi Crow in a telephone interview Monday.

She said the State Government Accountability Board told her she needed 110 signatures — that's 15 percent of those who voted in the village during the last gubernatorial election. Crow said she has 150 already.

But the group has not filed the petition yet.

Crow said the group is thinking about collecting more signatures. She said the group wants to send a clear message to the board.

"We heard they were talking about building a new village hall and a lot of us feel our taxes are too high," she said.

Crow said everyone is looking for tax relief. Not just some tax relief — all of what is expected to be provided when the village closes its Tax Incremental Financing district at the end of the year, she said. And, if the board is going to build a new village hall or spend a large sum of money on some sort of alternative, every village voters should have the opportunity to decide the fate of such a project, Crow said.

"The consensus of many people I've spoke to is that no one wants to pay for a village hall," she said.

The village board has not approved any construction project related to the village hall this year.

However, last fall, the board established a Village Hall Committee to research solutions to space, repair and structure concerns with the building, which is located at 715 Walworth St.

The list of problems the committee came up with range from asbestos, air quality and roof leaks to not having enough space for the village's police department.

On June 13, the board approved paying between $2,500 and $5,000 for Jon Wallenkamp, of Kueny Architects, Pleasant Prairie, to study the building.

Karen Bullock, committee chairwoman and village trustee, said in a July 3 phone interview that her committee and the board will touch base with Wallenkamp during two separate meetings Thursday, July 11.

See related story in this week's Regional News.

As for the petition, the village board can either accept it, deny it or take no action.

Linda Gray, Genoa City's attorney, said if it accepts the petition, the board adopts the ordinance and $500,000-plus projects need to be approved by the majority of village voters in a referendum.

"Then, the village board will have to follow what the people say," Gray said.

If the board denies the petition or takes no action?

Crow said she spoke to a state elections official Monday, and that person told her the board has 30 days from the time the petition is filed to make a decision.

If the board denies it or takes no action, the petition is put before village voters in a referendum.

Crow said the referendum would occur at the next regular election, which isn't until the early part of 2014. Or, she said, a special election to take place before then could be scheduled by the board.