Open houses to show need for Edgerton City Hall’s new home

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Stacy Vogel
May 18, 2009
— The city of Edgerton is getting the word out about its upcoming City Hall referendum, though at least one council member is unhappy about the way it’s being done.

The city has sent an information pamphlet to every municipal household and plans to hold four open houses at City Hall starting Wednesday.

Voters will decide Tuesday, June 2, whether to spend up to $1.2 million on a new City Hall. Officials say the project won’t raise property taxes, but city ordinance requires major building projects to go to referendum.

The city council approved spending $900 to print and distribute the pamphlets May 4. It explains why officials believe a new City Hall is necessary, why they want to build it now and how the project will affect property taxes.

The city can’t spend public money to advocate a “yes” or “no” vote, but it can explain the issue and encourage residents to vote, City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said.

Flanigan said the city attorney believes the pamphlet is informative and factual.

“He thought it was appropriate to be providing facts,” she said.

But new Alderman Mark Wellnitz said the pamphlet is one-sided.

“It all was like it’s asking people to vote ‘yes’ on it even though the city is supposed to remain neutral on it,” he said.

For example, the pamphlet is vague about how much it would cost to remodel the existing building, he said. An architect estimated in February it would cost about $191,000 to keep the building in operation for the next five to 10 years.

The pamphlet says, “One likely consequence of a ‘no’ vote is that an unknown amount of funds will be spent in the next two to three years to keep the current City Hall in operation or relocate to another facility.”

Wellnitz voted in favor of the pamphlet but said he only saw a rough draft at the city council meeting and thought staff would revise it in response to his complaints.

During his April campaign, Wellnitz made opposition to a new City Hall his central issue. He won his seat by a single vote and took office the day after the council voted to go to referendum.

He believes the city should wait a few years until the economy improves to build a new City Hall, he said.

But Mayor Erik Thompson said now is the perfect time to build because building costs and interest rates are low.

The city is almost done paying for previous capital projects, so the project won’t raise property taxes, Thompson said.

“The people I do talk to are recognizing the fact that this is probably the cheapest the project is ever going to be,” he said.

If voters approve the project, the city can apply for grants to mitigate the cost, he said.

Thompson will be at the open houses to answer questions, he said. Visitors can review the plans and see the existing building.

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