Stalemate: Tie Vote Means No Town Meeting for Wheatland
2-2 vote puts an end to Supervisor Todd Morse’s motion to ask electors whether to repair the existing township building, or demolish it and build a new one.
Registered voters in Wheatland Township won’t be meeting to discuss whether the existing township hall should be renovated or rebuilt — but, according to one trustee, that’s only because they’ve already spoken loud and clear.
Superintendent Todd Morse’s request to call a town meeting was defeated by default after the township board’s vote ended in a 2-2 tie. Morse and trustee Frank King voted to hold the meeting, while trustees Karl Karantonis and Joe Hudetz voted no.
“I guess we have a stalemate, since no one else is here,” Morse said, telling Hudetz and Karantonis, “Any other issues that come up with the county, it falls on your shoulders, because I tried to move forward.”
Wednesday’s special meeting was called after an anonymous complaint to Will County brought numerous code violations to light at the existing township building — 27 violations, to be exact, according to Hudetz.
The violations were reported a year after registered voters held a special town meeting to put a stop to plans to build a new, $1.5 million township facility. Instead, voters said, the township should sell property it had purchased at 103rd Street and Route 59 and use the proceeds to renovate the existing building.
“Let’s remember what the electors accomplished and asked us to do,” Karantonis said.
“So far, none of that has even happened,” he said of the residents’ instructions to the board. “It took us seven months to even get a sign up on the land that the property is for sale.”
‘A huge leap’
Hudetz and architect Joe Navilio of Naperville-based Architectural Associates Group differed on their understanding of the scope of repairs required by the county.
“It was very clear to me at the meeting [with the county] that there were 27 items that have to be addressed but none of them are requiring a major renovation,” he said. In fact, he noted, county officials gave the township leeway on several of the items, presenting maximum and minimum repairs that could be made to satisfy code requirements.
Navilio, on the other hand, said the county presented the township with three lists of violations, including a separate list of plumbing repairs that needed to be made.
Violations include roof leaks, lack of roof venting, issues with gutters and the need to reconnect downspouts to gutters, water damage and lack of emergency lighting. (View the PDF with this article for the 27-item list)
“To take this list and take it to building a new building is a huge leap,” Hudetz said.
“I think it makes perfect sense,” Morse countered, adding the repairs would cost a minimum of $20,000 to $30,000.
Karantonis took issue with Morse’s request that Navilio come up with estimates regarding how much it would cost to demolish the building and start over, versus how much it would cost to make the repairs.
According to Karantonis, when the board voted to retain Navilio’s services at a special Aug. 16 meeting, he was simply asked to work on the code violation issues, not explore costs for a new building.
“Your authority is only to handle the non-compliance items from Will County, nothing more,” Karantonis said.
Morse said he wanted to have the estimates available at the proposed town meeting so residents could compare them and vote.
“It’s time to exhibit a little transparency,” he said.
‘This isn’t about a new building’
According to Morse, the cost of rehabbing the existing building, built to house the township’s highway department in the 1970s, exceeds to the cost of building a new facility.
“To renovate this building, we’ve already found out from the county, we’re better off bulldozing this building,” he said.
Hudetz said the township should first sell the land, as the residents directed the board, before moving forward with any building plans or extensive renovations.
“We’re putting the cart before the horse,” Hudetz said. “Until we sell the land … there’s nothing else to do except fix these compliance items.”
But Morse said trustees should ask voters what they think.
“Let them decide,” he said. “If they say renovate this building, that’s what we’ll do. I don’t care either way.”
As the meeting got under way, Morse addressed the standing-room-only crowd, denying accusations that he was trying to push a new building through before his term ends next spring.
“For the past two years, we’ve been trying to listen to the citizens and do the best thing for the citizens,” he said. “This isn’t about a new building … This isn’t about the next election.”
Resident Deb Holscher, who led the charge to put a stop to the building plans last year, disagreed.
“He’s using some non-compliance issues to put forward his personal agenda,” she said.
Holscher, who also served on a space study committee that investigated the need for a new building, agreed with Karantonis and Hudetz that the electors have already spoken.
“I wanted people to have a voice,” she said of the August 2011 town meeting. “I didn’t care what they chose.”
Officials, public comment absent from meeting
Absent from the meeting were trustee Doug Haddad, deputy clerk Bill Alstrom and clerk Chuck Kern.
Also missing from the agenda was a time for public comment. A public comment period was also left off the agenda for the Aug. 16 special meeting at which trustees voted to retain Navilio’s architectural firm.
“He rushed right past it,” Hudetz said of Morse. “Normally, it’s automatically part of the meeting.”
Hudetz said he would accompany Navilio at a second meeting with the county to iron out exactly what code violations need to be addressed.
Navilio said he would move forward with plans to put the work out for bid, saying he expected to have the estimated costs sometime next week.
READ MORE FROM PLAINFIELD PATCH:
- Code Violations Revive New Building Talks in Wheatland Township
- Wheatland Park Proposal Under Scrutiny
- Wheatland Starts the Process of Selling Township Hall Land
- No Space in Highway Dept. for Wheatland Offices, Jarnagin Says
- Wheatland Residents Reject All Plans for a New Town Hall, Vote to Do Nothing