Prominently located just steps from Route 120 across from Lily Lake, the Lakemoor village hall for decades has been hard to miss. But that hasn't been a good thing.
Built about a half century ago, the boxlike former fire station and garage is tattered and tired, an image village leaders would like to shed.
"The old image has got to go," Mayor Todd Weihofen said.
The town's sparse staff moved to a new building about a week ago, leaving behind the village hall and its narrow, steep stairway (no elevator) to second-floor offices, cranky heating and air conditioning systems, leaky roof and any number of other irritating odds and ends.
"It's a lot nicer -- no stairs. You walk right in," Village Clerk/Administrative Assistant Bonnie Sikora said of the new village hall, located in a small office suite on the east side of a building housing The Lakemoor Banquet Facilities at Route 120 and Darrell Road.
The location around the back of the banquet hall is trickier to find than the old digs.
"We're getting a lot of calls, 'Where are you guys?'" Sikora said.
The move to temporary new quarters reflects a desire to improve service for residents and the community's image.
At the old village hall, an industrial gray-colored garage door facing the street was the dominant feature of what is supposed to be the center of village business. It hasn't given an optimum first impression for would-be developers or others looking to do business in town.
"I miss the view (of the lake) but that's about it," said Village Administrator David Alarcon.
"That building truly is not what the village is all about. We're a very progressive community and the village offices didn't reflect that."
Neither had the police station, formerly a double-wide trailer across the street on the south side of Route 120. An officer's foot went through the floor before the trailer was abandoned a few months ago for new quarters in an industrial park a few miles away.
"It's definitely a step up from the mobile home," Alarcon said of the more expansive new police department headquarters. The village bought the building for $600,000 rather than leasing space for about $4,000 per month, he added.
Shifting both operations is part of an evolving bigger picture, as a needs analysis commissioned by the village is nearly complete.
"At one time, it housed public works, the police and the administration," Alarcon said of the former village hall. "How they all fit in there, I have no idea."
A new village hall is a given. But where it will be located, how big it should be, and whether it should be combined with the police department are among the questions to be answered.
"Then, we'll move ahead with picking a property," Weihofen said.
Lakemoor is partially in Lake County and partially in McHenry County. The old village hall is in McHenry County but the expected future center of commercial activity will be near routes 12 and 120 to the east in Lake County.
Rent for the new village offices is $700 a month and there isn't enough room to hold public meetings. The village owns the old building but not the adjoining parking, which it rents for $500 per month. Whether it will be put on the market or torn down is unknown at this point.
for now, public meetings will still be held there but they may shift to a newly converted garage area at the police department, where proceedings on traffic tickets and ordinance violations are heard in what are known as adjudication hearings.
"The old building wasn't welcoming," Alarcon said. "It didn't serve the people of Lakemoor very well, especially with the offices on the second floor."