Janesville43.5°

Council to spend $1.3 million to $3 million for arena renovations

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
February 15, 2011
— Janesville City Council members on Monday authorized the city to spend up to $160,000 for architectural designs to improve the city's ice arena at a cost of between $1.3 million to $3 million.

The aging facility on Beloit Avenue needs major work, including new ice-making equipment and a roof, officials have said.


More than a year ago, city council members considered whether to spend $1.5 million to renovate the facility when a private group asked for time to raise funds to help build a new arena. Group members argued it made no sense to sink so much money into an aging facility.


The group, though, did not meet its fundraising goal.


The council's vote on Monday indicates it is willing to spend at least $1.3 million to update the arena's basic needs and add amenities.


The council already has borrowed $2 million for the project. City Manager Eric Levitt suggested any money leftover from the arena project could be used to buy land to build a new fire station.


Nobody appeared to support spending the bare minimum on a basic option that would fix the arena at a cost of $1 million to $1.3 million. That option would have included replacement of the ice-making system, roof, fire doors, fire suppression system, lights, boiler, south wall and dehumidification system.


The council instead will choose between the two remaining options:


-- An intermediate option estimated to cost between $1.3 million and $1.75 million that replaces the mechanics but also could build more locker rooms, restrooms and shower facilities. Levitt said a users group would be formed to see how best to use the money.


-- A long-term plan could cost between $2.4 million and $3 million and includes everything in the basic and intermediate plans, but it also expands storage, seating, parking and restrooms for increased capacity. Levitt said this option would mean the council plans to use the facility for at least a decade.


Before the council's discussion, Janesville Bluebirds hockey coach John Mauermann spoke of some of the shortages in the current facility—especially the need for locker room facilities for women.


Mark Cullen, 220 Jefferson Ave., a co-owner of the Janesville Jets, agreed with Mauermann's assessments and urged the council to consider the long-term option.


"We think that is going to do the best to enhance the investment the city already has," Cullen said, adding this is a good time to put out construction bids.


"There is an economic stimulus from the Jets, and there's a lot of people that are benefiting from that asset down there that the city owns," he said.


Councilman Bill Truman said the ice hasn't been freezing at the rink recently and that locker rooms and bathrooms are not adequate.


"There's issues down there," he said.


The arena in its current condition is missing out on chances to host tournaments and attract more people to Janesville, he said.


"I think we need to go forward with something down there or say, 'Forget it,' and take the bulldozer (to it)," Truman said.


Councilman Tom McDonald said the city has $2 million set aside but also asked why users groups couldn't continue to raise money or whether any of the money pledged for a new facility could be used at the current facility.


"Let's look at ways to raise the money as opposed to saying we'll borrow for it," McDonald said.


COUNCIL TO DEBATE LETTER TO WALKER

The Janesville City Council will meet in a special meeting at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday to decide whether to send a letter to Gov. Scott Walker deriding his proposal to reduce the collective bargaining power of state unions.


Councilman Russ Steeber on Monday wanted the council to vote to send a letter to Walker, but the city attorney said the public did not have the proper 24-hour notice.


Steeber said it is not the state's right to tell the city how to deal with its employees. Steeber works for the county and was a longtime union member.


"I think this is moving too quickly, it's poorly thought out and I think, in the long run, will hurt the citizens of Wisconsin," he said.


Councilman Frank Perrotto said Steeber's comments were "highly offensive. I believe they're made with an incredible amount of prejudice (and are) politically oriented and self-serving.


"This council should not be involved in this type of rhetoric," Perrotto said. "I will personally tell you I applaud Governor Walker for putting this topic up to be discussed. It should have been (done) years ago."


Perrotto said he would not be at Wednesday's meeting.


Neither will council President Kathy Voskuil, who said she doesn't believe it's the council's place to write such a letter—although individuals certainly could.


Councilman Bill Truman said he supported such a letter. However, he said he cannot attend Wednesday's meeting because of work.


Councilman Yuri Rashkin, who attended a teachers' rally Monday protesting the changes, said he would vote to send a letter.


Councilmen George Brunner and Tom McDonald said they would attend the meeting to gain more information.



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