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posted: 2/1/2014 8:00 AM

Libertyville to host meeting on Brainerd tax hike plan

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  • A view of the proposed Brainerd Community Center in Libertyville.

      A view of the proposed Brainerd Community Center in Libertyville.
    Courtesy of The Hezner Corp.

 
 

The first of three town-hall discussions about a plan to hike taxes to transform the vacant former Libertyville High School into a community center is set for Monday, and supporters and opponents are poised to make their cases.

"Nobody is ambivalent on this issue. Everybody feels very strongly one way or another," Mayor Terry Weppler said. "One thing that will be brought out at the very beginning of the meeting is there will be no personal attacks."

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The session will begin at 7 p.m. at the Libertyville Civic Center, 135 W. Church St. Town-hall meetings also are planned for the same time on Feb. 12 and March 6.

Voters on March 18 will decide whether to authorize the village to issue up to $11.5 million in bonds to fund the project, which is proposed by the Brainerd Community Center Inc. nonprofit group. The owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay an extra $142 per year in taxes for 10 years.

Weppler will present a slideshow available at www.libertyville.com

regarding the project.

"It shows drawings, it shows (economic) impact, it shows all the things I'll be talking about at the meeting," he said.

After that, the floor will be open for comments and questions. And there should be plenty of discussion as organized opposition to the plan was announced Friday.

"I don't think it's fiscally responsible, it's not affordable and it doesn't make common sense," said Libertyville resident and Cook Memorial Library District board member Joe Bean, who has organized a political action committee to oppose the measure.

The group called itsanobrainerd.com intends to launch the www.itsaNOBrainerd.org website on Sunday to outline its positions. For example, rather than renovate the existing building and demolish the adjoining Jackson Gym as proposed, the group is calling for both to be demolished and replaced with a commemorative plaza.

Supporters, who for seven years have been pursuing the idea of converting the former Libertyville Township High School, known as the Brainerd building, are convinced their idea would work.

"We're definitely looking forward to it," Brainerd group member John Snow said of the first town-hall meeting. That group also has a website, www.savebrainerd.org/, with its plans and other information.

Plans have been made for the facility to be self-sustaining through revenue from weddings, banquets, local theater and other uses. The two most notable features call for demolition of the Jackson Gym and relocation of the Libertyville Civic Center to the new facility.

"That definitely will ruffle some feathers," Snow said of the civic center move.

The school building, which is nearly a century old, and the gym, built in 1929, are owned by Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128. They are leased to the village, which subleases them to the Brainerd group.

The first lease payment of $250,000 is due Dec. 1, with payments of $50,000 per year thereafter. A village bond issue would fund $350,000 in lease payments. The school board has said it would demolish the buildings if the lease agreement is terminated.

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