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Close vote expected in Fontana referendum

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Kevin Hoffman
September 3, 2010
— Village officials expect a “marginally close” tally Sept. 14 when Fontana residents vote whether they’ll allow $2.8 million to be spent on the lakefront redevelopment project.

Community Development Authority President Pete Petersen said he’s heard both sides of the issue. Those in favor believe the project would boost tourism, while those against argue it would be wasteful spending.


“I’m not advocating one way or the other,” Petersen said. “We worked hard to put out the facts, and personally I think it’s a good idea. We wouldn’t have spent all the time, money and effort to get this far if those who were elected officials didn’t think it was a good idea.”


The village board in June passed a resolution to put the referendum on the Sept. 14 ballot. It asks approval for funds not exceeding $2.8 million to reconstruct Lake Street and the lakefront parking lot and to tear down and rebuild the lakefront building.


The 5,500-square-foot structure includes a meeting room, coffee bar and watercraft rental space. The building would be leased out to a single tenant but open to the public about two-thirds of the time.


Lake Geneva Marine Company leases the building, and Village Administrator and Treasurer Kelly Hayden said it would continue to do so.


Hayden has heard positive comments from residents who come through her office. Signs hang in the village’s administration building, pamphlets have been distributed and a website was set up to relay the latest news on the project.


Some people haven’t been as supportive.


Petersen said someone anonymously passed out fliers in the community questioning the effort. State law requires a group to identify itself if it spends more than $25 to distribute propaganda referencing a candidate or referendum.


Whether the referendum passes or fails, the project has a long way to go.


The village board and Community Development Authority have to decide if construction should start this fall or in the spring. Petersen said they would try to avoid interfering with summer activities on the lake and could wait until fall 2011.


If voters don’t approve the project, it likely won’t be the last time the question appears on the ballot. Petersen said they could alter it and bring it back in the near future.


Even if the referendum doesn’t pass, the village will have to move forward with construction to Lake Street at some point, Petersen said. The water line is undersized and the road would have to be torn up to replace it, he said.


The village can use tax incremental financing funds to pay for it, but if the referendum fails, it would come from the general fund.


“Whether it’s done this year, next year or the year after that, we’re not certain,” Petersen said. “The first issue is to get the referendum passed.”


Information on the lakefront building project and the referendum can be found at lakefrontbuilding.com.

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