Chapel friends must wait a month to discuss money with Janesville council

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

JANESVILLE--The Friends of Oak Hill Chapel will have to wait a month before finding out whether the Janesville City Council will grant the group $60,000 in its quest to save the historic structure.

Council members said Monday that while they support the group, they do not have enough details about their plans to sign away taxpayer money.

Richard Snyder, co-president of the friends group, said the group is not deterred and will continue fundraising efforts.

City staff last year recommended the chapel be demolished. The city assumed ownership of the cemetery in 2008.

But residents spoke in support of the building, and council members gave them until this month to raise $40,000 and present a plan for preservation.

Chapel supporters came to Monday's council meeting having raised the money, but the council did not yet have the specifications most members said they wanted from Mick Gilbertson, the architect hired by the city.

 “Do not misinterpret this,” council President Kathy Voskuil said to group members Monday.

Voskuil said she couldn't think of another group during her time on the council that had raised $40,000 in such a short time, or that had such passion for its project.

But, “I don't see a plan for the restoration,” Voskuil said. “As a city council member, we have to be good stewards with taxpayer money.”

The resolution presented Monday would have granted the group about $60,000 the city set aside for cemetery improvements. It also would have given City Manager Mark Freitag direction to oversee the group's expenses.

The friends group must keep costs below $100,000 so it remains exempt from prevailing wage requirements.

The group has said it intends to make its money stretch by using skilled volunteers and donated material.

Councilman Douglas Marklein said he didn't want the committee to get halfway into the project only to find it didn't have the needed money.

Councilman Sam Liebert said the council was “getting caught up in the weeds a little bit.”

Said Marklein: “I fully expect when the numbers come through that we will happily authorize the release of the funds. Right now, it's premature.”

Councilman Jim Farrell said he also wants assurance the volunteers doing the labor are qualified to do so.

Last updated: 7:04 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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