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posted: 10/10/2013 5:40 PM

True costs of converting old high school into a community center being assessed

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  • The Brainerd Building in Libertyville.

      The Brainerd Building in Libertyville.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


What Libertyville voters need to know before deciding in March whether to increase taxes to save the historic Brainerd building is taking shape, but key questions remain as a fact-finding effort continues.

Can a revamped facility make enough money to sustain itself or will the village have to subsidize the operation? How much would that cost and where would the funds come from? Would the new gathering place take business away from other public facilities or private businesses or is there already enough space?

Those are some of the issues to be answered as an ad hoc committee studying a plan by Brainerd Community Center Inc. digs into details of converting the former Libertyville Township High School into a community center.

"The village already owns three buildings that provide space for lease. If we add a new building are we taking space from others?" Mayor Terry Weppler asked during a committee discussion Wednesday.

A space study of various entities, including the Libertyville Civic Center, David Adler Music and Arts Center, Cook Park Library and Libertyville Township, is being compiled.

A detailed business plan is under way and is expected to help determine interest in a renovated Brainerd, which is envisioned as a home for the performing arts.

"There's no feasibility study to this whatsoever," said village Trustee and committee member Todd Gaines. "Does it meet the demands of citizens? We don't know that."

Weppler said a business plan to include projected income and expenses will shed light on potential interest.

The committee also learned it would cost $7.15 million -- about $400,000 more than initially projected -- to replace the windows, roof and mechanical systems and other work to make the building, owned by the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, ready for use.

When lease payments are included, the total is about $8.4 million, the committee learned.

The village leases the building from the school district and subleases it to the Brainerd group. The first payment of $250,000 is due Dec. 1, 2014.

Weppler said the cost of mothballing or demolishing the adjoining Jackson Gym, which is not part of the initial plan, also needs to be available to voters. There are potential costs to the village in either scenario.

"The whole purpose is what are realistic numbers for the taxpayers and what can we expect," he said.

The cost of demolishing both buildings would be about $917,000, with the village liable for all but $300,000.

Plans to save the long vacant structure, built in 1916 at Route 176 and Brainerd Avenue, have been pursued for years but fundraising by the not-for-profit group Brainerd group has fallen far short. Village officials want to settle the matter and plan to put a binding referendum on the March 18 primary election ballot.

Three public information meetings are planned for early 2014 and Weppler has said he wants every scrap of financial and other information available. Friends and foes of the idea are well established but they won't be the target of the sessions, he said.

"It's the voters in the middle who really don't know what's being proposed that we have to educate," Weppler said.

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