Amrich, Herrmann differ on Island Lake hall plans

Island Lake's mayoral candidates disagree on plans for a new village hall and police station on land adjoining Water Tower Park.

Ex-mayor Charles Amrich is seeking to unseat incumbent Debbie Herrmann.

Amrich says village leaders should stop investigating the viability of a new municipal center, citing concerns about the economy.

Herrmann said the current building is in need of expensive repairs, and she believes the board needs to continue investigating options.

Amrich is leading a slate of candidates against Herrmann and a team of her political allies in the April 9 election.

A three-member electoral board recently ruled Amrich ineligible as a candidate because of a former financial debt to the village, but a Lake County judge put that ruling on hold pending a court hearing.

The seat carries a 4-year term.

Amrich and Herrmann spoke about the village hall plans and other political issues in questionnaires for the Daily Herald.

Village staffers and police now share a building on Greenleaf Avenue. The facility — a 57-year-old former school — also contains a preschool, a senior center and a gymnasium.

Officials say it needs costly repairs, and they've been studying if building a new facility is a better option. The efforts steamed ahead for much of 2012, with multiple meetings and public discussions held, but little has been done publicly since the fall.

With an estimated base price of $4.9 million, the complex could house village offices, a police station, a community center and other services.

The site being eyed is a piece of vacant, village-owned property adjoining the park, which is on Route 176 near Newport Court. In the past, officials have said the site is at the park, but Herrmann clarified the location in her response.

No architectural or site plans have been approved, nor has a funding source been finalized.

Herrmann, a former trustee elected mayor in 2009, said the current hall “is on its last leg.” Engineers have estimated keeping the building running will cost $1 million, she claimed, and that doesn't include heating and cooling repairs or other unforeseen purchases.

“At this point, the village board must examine all options,” Herrmann wrote. “While some will criticize the expenditure of tax dollars to perform our due diligence, we cannot simply stick our heads in the sand and hope this problem goes away.”

Amrich, who was mayor from 1985 to 2005, said the economy isn't right for such a project.

“Families are going through financial problems and are tightening their belts,” he wrote. “The village should be no different.”

The current village hall has been ignored, Amrich said, but he insisted it's “a solid structure.”

Amrich also cited the overwhelming voter opposition to the project.

In November, 76 percent of voters said they didn't want a new village hall. The advisory question was put on the ballot by a grass-roots group and was criticized by Herrmann and her political allies.

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