Voters could weigh in on Island Lake village hall proposal in November election

Island Lake residents may be able to say whether they think a new village hall and police station should be built in town when they vote in the November election.

A group of residents concerned about the project have submitted an advisory referendum for the ballot. To get the question before voters, they circulated a petition this past weekend and gathered 340 signatures, more than the minimum needed to accomplish the task.

Resident Mark Beeson led the grass-roots effort. His goal was to give people a voice in the project, which has garnered controversy since it was first publicly discussed in May.

“The people want to decide (if) this is best for the village,” said Beeson, who will run for trustee in 2013.

Officials have discussed building a new municipal facility 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.

That 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 been publicized.

Critics have alleged much of the planning done so far has been handled secretly. They’ve also complained the project is moving forward too quickly.

“This should have been formulated in little bits and steps,” Beeson said. “It’s something the people should be involved in.”

Beeson is particularly concerned about the potential cost of the project. He also questioned the proposed location, a public park where village festivals and other events are held.

Those concerns and others prompted the referendum petition drive.

The question reads: “Shall the village of Island Lake, Illinois, undertake a multimillion-dollar obligation to construct a combined public safety facility.”

The question was submitted to Village Clerk Connie Mascillino on Monday, the deadline for such action. For the question to appear on the ballot, Mascillino must submit it to the McHenry County and Lake County clerks by Aug. 30.

The time between deadlines allows for any petition challenges to be considered, Mascillino said.

If it appears on the ballot, the referendum won’t be legally binding. But letting village officials know how the public feels about the plan is enough for Beeson.

“If it’s good, we’ll say yes,” Beeson said. “But at least we (get) to choose.”

In an unusual move, Mayor Debbie Herrmann responded to the petition drive with an open letter to residents on the village’s Facebook page.

Herrmann accused the petitioners of promoting “misinformation and deceptive lies.” She also defended the planning process and insisted the effort is in its early stages.

“We have not yet gathered all the facts necessary to present the facility plan to our residents,” Herrmann said in the lengthy message.

After a consultant completes cost estimates and other elements for the proposal, a public hearing will be held on the plan, she said.

When asked, Herrmann said she has no plans to challenge the legitimacy of the referendum petitions.

Herrmann said she will answer questions about the project at Thursday’s board meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. at village hall.

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Mark Beeson
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