Saturday, October 22, 2011

Belvidere Township residents veto Eagles Club purchase

Belvidere Township residents veto Eagles Club purchase

From Rockford Register Star
Written  By Greg Stanley

BELVIDERE — Belvidere Township residents quashed plans to buy the vacant Eagles Club building on West Locust Street.

More than 100 residents attended a special meeting today, and after two hours of discussion, the purchase was turned down by a large majority in a show of hands.

The township’s board had previously approved buying the empty building for $150,000, but it needed approval from the township’s electorate to complete the deal.

“It’s a lost opportunity,” Supervisor Pat Murphy said. “But the people have spoken, and life goes on.”

Township officials intended to use the building to provide space for youth programs. Murphy hoped to work out an agreement with the Belvidere Family Y that would allow the Y to expand its programs.

The building would also be available to other youth programs and organizations.

“I don’t care what anybody says, there’s still a need — you cannot have enough programs for kids,” Murphy said.

Many residents who spoke out against the purchase were unhappy with operational and maintenance costs the township would incur once the building was purchased.

Environmental and architectural studies showed that the township would need to spend up to $3,000 on immediate asbestos removal to use the building. The studies also recommended $97,000 to $100,000 worth of basic repairs down the road.

Belvidere Township is in a strong financial position. It finished its fiscal 2010 with $5.9 million in the bank, with $1.3 million undesignated.

“We have the money,” Murphy said. “We have that money, because we worked very hard to save that money.”

Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton supported the purchase of the building, saying it could have been a shot in the arm for economic development in the neighborhood.

“We’ve all seen what vacant buildings can do to a neighborhood,” Brereton said. “This facility would be occupied with activities that would be a positive environment for this neighborhood. Whenever you can create activity in a neighborhood, you’re creating opportunities for other businesses.”

The issue could be brought back through a referendum on ballots in the next election, but Murphy doesn’t believe the township will take that route.

“The way I feel is it’s a done deal,” he said.