Edgerton will not sell vet building
After weeks of passionate debate among veterans and city officials and more debate at the meeting Monday, the council voted unanimously to make the building available for lease but not purchase.
The issue started in fall after Cathy Engler asked to rent the building for her business, Edgerton Children’s Center. She wanted to make improvements to the site and asked the city to name a purchase price beforehand in case she ever wanted to buy it.
Later, the YMCA expressed interest in renting the building for a fitness center.
The interest encouraged the council to discuss whether it’s willing to sell the building at all.
The veterans building has lost money for the city for at least 14 years, but it has an emotional significance in Edgerton. The city planned and built the building between 1947 and 1961 as a way to honor returning World War II veterans.
Over the years, the building has held a teen center, a preschool and other organizations, but it always has been available to the VFW for its meetings and events.
Now, only the veterans use the building.
Even when the building is leased, the rent doesn’t cover the costs of maintenance and utilities, said City Administrator Ramona Flanigan. The city has lost an average of $12,000 a year on the building since it took over management in 1995, she said.
The city could collect $4,000 a year in property taxes if it sold the building along with the money it would get from the sale, she said.
But you can’t put a price on what the veterans have given the community, said Char Hale, a former city council member and wife of a veteran.
“I beg you guys not to ever sell the veterans building,” she said. “That’s sacred ground … It’s like selling your veterans down the drain, and it really hurts my feelings.”
The city has been adamant about allowing veterans to meet in the new City Hall scheduled to break ground in spring, but some veterans have said that’s not good enough.
Lyle Maves said the city should move City Hall to the veterans building instead.
“Why not kill two birds with one stone?” he said.
The city discussed doing just that earlier this year. It would have cost about $724,000 to renovate the veterans building so it could accommodate City Hall, compared to the $1.2 million voters approved for a new building. But an ad hoc committee and the city council decided they want to keep City Hall downtown.
The council voted Monday to allow the veterans to hang pictures in the new City Hall if they want. The pictures currently hang at the veterans building, but more people could see them if they hung at City Hall, council members said.
The council also voted to direct the City Hall Design Committee to designate a space on the new City Hall site for some sort of veterans memorial, possibly a garden or park.
The city did not decide on a renter Monday or set terms of a lease, but it said any renter must continue to allow the veterans to meet there.