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Village hall riles Island Lake

ISLAND LAKE – About 40 residents crowded into the village hall meeting room Thursday night, the first meeting of trustees since a weekend petition drive calling for a referendum on building a new village hall.

The petition garnered 340 signatures, enough to put an advisory referendum on the November ballot. The petition cited a “multimillion-dollar obligation to construct a combined public safety facility.”

Discussions about a new village hall at Water Tower Park, on Route 176 near Newport Court, have been brewing discontent over the summer.

“We all want to know what’s going on,” resident Carrie Jacobs said. “Give us the analysis of what you’re thinking,” she said in sometimes testy exchanges between residents and officials.

The current village hall operates out of a former elementary school. The police department and public works departments also operate out of the building.

Village President Debbie Herrmann said the village is in the “infant stages” of figuring out the best options for a village hall in the community of 8,000 people.

“I don’t have the answers to give you,” she said.

Earlier this week, officials said through the village Facebook page that department heads and staff had been given surveys to assess the needs of employee work areas. “Those surveys were compiled, creating the first draft of the space analysis,” the statement said. “That analysis was the focus of Friday’s workshop.”

Based on the surveys, BKV Group, a design team hired by the village, said a new municipal building would need a 13,000-square-foot administrative wing and community center, an 11,000-square-foot police department and a 11,000-square-foot public works facility.

Draper and Kramer, another firm, is preparing a feasibility study. Until that study is complete, village leaders simply don’t have all the answers, Hermann said Thursday night.

The cost for the consulting and study is estimated at $30,000.

Village leaders have said the current building is in need of major repairs. Currently, maintenance and repair costs at village hall range from $120,000 to $150,000 a year, Herrmann said.

Residents raised issues about one of the consultant’s timetable for a new building and the project’s financing.

The consultant projects excavation in early November. Herrmann said that is not definite.

She also said financing a new building would not raise residents’ tax bills.

“We are not a home-rule [municipality],” she said. “We cannot add taxes to your bill.”

But Charles Amrich, village president from 1985 through 2005, said residents ultimately will pay for the project in one form or another – through increased fees for vehicle stickers or fines for parking violations.

“In this economy so many people are struggling,” Amrich said. “Some are working two to three jobs to stay afloat.” He said he thinks village leaders know the projected costs “but don’t want to say so. When they say it’s not going to cost residents any money, it doesn’t really hold water,” he said.

Village officials plan to meet Tuesday for another workshop in which the design team will review site plans, renderings and floor plan options.

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