Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

State requiring Town Hall be up to code
Inspector’s report delays repairs

by Steve Targo

March 24, 2011

Geneva — “It’s all up in the air,” Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale said during a telephone interview Thursday, March 17.

This was his response to the latest snag in the town’s attempts to repair the Geneva Town Hall since a fire damaged it during the Groundhog Day Blizzard.

Although the building sustained minimal structural damage, the smoky stench was enough to shut the facility down periodically, forcing local government meetings and the primary election to take place in other locations.

Now, the repair project brought to light several other problems with the Town Hall. It’s expected to be discussed at the board meeting Thursday, March 24, during a report by Building Inspector Audrey Boss.

Apparently, the Town Hall isn’t up to code in a few areas.

“It seems we may be subject to citations,” Lauderdale said, adding he expects other board members and himself will have to brainstorm to come up with a solution. “I think we should look at this as soon as possible.”

Earlier this month, Boss said she contacted Charlotte Martin, a building inspector with the State Department of Commerce, shortly after the fire. Recently, ServiceMaster — the company which is working on repairs — was set to rebuild the enclosure atop the cellar stairwell near the main entrance. However, Boss said she told them to stop with that project.

On March 7, Martin issued a report which calls for the town to address some “code-related matters” with the Town Hall. She stated plans must be submitted and approved by the DOC to rebuild the stairwell enclosure.

“The original enclosure, which was destroyed by fire, appears to have been built without approval and did not comply with the landing requirements for stairways,” Martin stated.

According to the report, the ventilation system for the lower level of the Town Hall — the location of offices for the clerk-treasurer, deputy clerk, building inspector and court staff — appears “inadequate.”

Martin also questions whether the 1992 remodel of the Town Hall, a building which used to be Como Community Church, was state-approved.

“After inquiring about prior approvals for the alterations made several years ago to the exterior and interior of the building, it was determined that the alterations to the Town Hall may have been done without review and approval by (the DOC),” Martin stated. “If prior approval was not obtained, the alterations shall be submitted to this department for review and approval.”

She stated these plans “shall show compliance” with ventilation system code, show the basement office layout and show the building’s fourth furnace on the first floor.

Earlier this month, Boss said the current plans list the basement as “open unassigned space.”

Martin also questioned whether the current ventilation system includes ducts for return and outside air and a toilet room exhaust.

But she identified other Town Hall issues.

“Directional exit lighting in the lower level appeared inadequate and the exit lights that were provided were unlit (during the) inspection,” Martin stated. “Current code would require exit lights to have a backup power source.”

She also stated because the Town Hall exceeds 50,000 cubic feet in volume, its plans must be “signed and sealed by a Wisconsin-registered architect or engineer.”

Not the ideal place

The Town Hall hasn’t just been the center of local government business. Since last year, it prompted one of the town’s more controversial questions — should it still be used as a Town Hall or should the town build something else?

Last July, the board voted 3-2 to investigate borrowing no more than $2 million to possibly buy property and build a new structure. This prompted a love-hate reaction among town residents. At a board meeting last fall, several residents spoke against the idea of a new Town Hall, citing economic concerns.

On March 17, Lauderdale said he doesn’t know how the town is going to address the concerns raised in Martin’s report.

“It may involve a bit of cost,” he said.

But does this mean a new Town Hall is back on the horizon?

“It’s premature to make that type of statement,” Lauderdale said.

Lauderdale was the one who broke the tie last July, when Supervisors Steve Kukla and Larry Kulik voted against the motion to adopt the resolution to investigate borrowing no more than $2 million.

Several times in the past, Lauderdale has expressed his desire to see a new Town Hall.

“It’s not the ideal place to be conducting town business,” Lauderdale said March 15.