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Article updated: 7/27/2012 4:37 PM

Ex-mayor questions plan for new Island Lake village hall

By Russell Lissau

You can count former Island Lake Mayor Charles Amrich among the residents questioning whether the town needs a new village hall and police station.

Amrich and about 20 other people packed the village hall boardroom Thursday to oppose the plans, which surfaced this summer and have gained steam in recent weeks.

They criticized the speed at which the project has progressed and urged Mayor Debbie Herrmann and the board to let voters decide if a new municipal facility should be built.

"I don't understand what the big hurry is to push this through," Amrich said during the public comment portion of Thursday's board meeting.

The mayor and trustees have been talking for a few months about building a new hall and police station in Water Tower Park, which is on Route 176 at Newport Court.

Village officials and police now share a building on Greenleaf Avenue. The facility -- a decades-old former school -- also houses a preschool, a senior center and a gymnasium.

Officials are considering having an independent developer build and own the municipal building and then renting it. At the end of the leasing period, the village would own the building.

Such an arrangement would bypass asking residents to approve a multimillion-dollar loan to pay for construction.

A timeline has not been set, nor has a budget for the project been publicized.

On Thursday, Amrich wanted to know the potential costs of the project but didn't get an answer. He objected to recent meetings on the plan that were held in the middle of the day and called for public hearings.

Amrich was Island Lake's mayor from 1985 to 2005. Last year, he was acquitted of official misconduct charges stemming from an investigation into village-owned vehicles that were repaired at a service station he owned during his time as mayor.

Amrich wasn't the only person who spoke against the plans Thursday.

Former trustee candidate Joe Ptak said he, too, favors putting the concept on a ballot for voters to decide.

Ptak also said he wants a temporary injunction to prevent officials from building a new village hall or police station.

Resident Mark Beeson complained that many people don't know anything about the proposal. He said he would have expected more planning and more public involvement for a project of this kind.

"I'm a little surprised by the whole idea of a new village hall," Beeson said. "It's a punch upside the head."

Beeson insisted the current village hall still meets the town's needs.

"What's wrong with this room?" he said. "It works. It's cheap."

Responding to the comments and questions, Herrmann said the project is in "the infant stages." Although an architect with the firm the board hired to develop the plan recently said the effort is being fast-tracked, Herrmann said those weren't her words.

Even so, Herrmann said village officials and residents need to look to the future.

"We need to be proactive and not reactive," she said. "We can't wait any longer."

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