Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Township voters table buying Eagle’s Club building

The following is taken from:  http://www.belvideredailyrepublican.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6857:township-voters-table-buying-eagles-club-building&catid=106:belvidere&Itemid=508

Note:  it now appears that the Town Hall “could not” request a referendum.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011 15:47 Bob Balgemann



Bob Balgemann photos. A standing room only crowd packed the basement of the Belvidere Township building Friday for a town meeting on purchase of the Eagle's Club on Locust Avenue.


Meeting moderator Dave Gallano (left) listens as township Supervisor Pat Murphy gives an overview of the purchase.

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BELVIDERE – On the surface it seemed like a slam-dunk.

The Belvidere Township board had voted unanimously to buy the 7,000-square-foot Eagle’s Club building on Locust Avenue. The Belvidere YMCA was eagerly awaiting the acquisition so it could expand programming for youth.

Letters of support had come from Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton and state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. All that was needed for the purchase to happen was approval from the township’s electorate.

That meeting was held Aug. 5, but township officials didn’t get the vote of concurrence they had sought. Instead, they were hit by a barrage of questions and concerns that they had not done their due diligence before agreeing to buy the building for $150,000.

Ultimately, those present voted to table action until there could be a referendum on the purchase, either in the March 2012 primary election or sooner. By a show of hands 38 of the approximately 66 registered voters in the room wanted the delay.

Before the vote it was stressed that no one among the more than 70 people who packed the basement of the township office building was against the YMCA or the good it had done for the community. Their concerns lay with the lack of knowledge about the building and possibility that renovations could become very expensive.

Questions also were raised about the absence of a cap on how much money would be spent, whether government should be spending tax dollars to support a private organization, why the township’s offer was $10,000 more than the assessed value of the property, why the building wasn’t tested for asbestos, radon and mold and why a feasibility study wasn’t done first.

Murphy and attorney John Mayville responded to those questions.

Murphy said a “matter of timing” led to some of the decisions to move ahead quickly. The board felt the property was worth $150,000 and he called it a financial investment as well as an investment in the city’s young people. “We feel strongly as a township that there is a need for more opportunities for youth.”

Overview of proposal

Before the vote township Murphy presented an overview of the proposal. The YMCA’s new executive director, Jennifer Jacky, and board President John Kaufield talked about all the good that could be done with the additional space.

After-school programs, fitness classes and activities for “tweeners” were among the plusses extra space would bring, Jacky said. “We want to work with other not-for-profits,” she said. “This building would be good for the community.”

Kaufield asked voters to approve the purchase for the good of the community. “You’ve always come forward to help the community,” he said.

“Youth programs are very much what townships are all about,” Murphy said. “We did not do this hastily.”

Mayor Brereton said the downtown “needs help, it needs investment.” He said that upon learning of the proposed purchase of the Eagle’s Club building and collaboration between the township and YMCA he applauded the effort.

Concerning the purchase price being more than the assessed value, he said, “I think Realtors will tell you that is common practice. I encourage you to move forward.”

Township board member Debbie Carlson said she was “baffled” by all the negativity. “The Y needs the space,” she said. “The township board has five people and we don’t often agree on much. But we agree on this.”

Referring to the audience, she said there are some people who are negative about everything. “Shame on you,” she said.

District 3 Boone County Board member Terri Glass had stern words for the township. “If we don’t know about the building why are we buying it?” she asked. “I want to know the names of the people who made this agreement. It smells, all the way around.”

Les Reid called for a feasibility study. “If there’s asbestos in the building forget about the $150,000,” he said. “This is about the unknowns; this is about an expansion of government at a bad time.”

Another county board member, Cathy Ward from District 2, was the first to call for a referendum on the purchase. Ultimately, that’s what the township electorate decided was best