Packed Wauconda board meeting leads to complaints

Already under fire for a plan to outsource police dispatch services, Wauconda Mayor Frank Bart is facing fresh criticism for not moving Tuesday night's crowded board meeting to a larger space at the local high school.

Although the cafeteria at Wauconda High was available and set up for a meeting, Bart kept the session in the much smaller boardroom. He has moved meetings twice before because controversial issues drew larger than usual audiences.

This time, the 911 center was the focus of the public's ire. More than 100 people jammed into the building for the meeting.

The roughly 60 chairs in the audience were filled within a few minutes of the meeting's start. People kept arriving, however.

Some sat on the floor in the room's main aisle as people angry about the issue spoke for nearly 90 minutes during the meeting's public-comment segment. Some stood along the walls instead.

Others stood in the lobby outside the boardroom and struggled to hear the discussion.

"I was in the lobby until I realized that I wasn't going to be able to hear anything," resident Barbara Trudell said Wednesday on Facebook. "Finally I went in and sat on the floor for the entire meeting. I wasn't comfortable, but I was able to hear."

Resident Jason Laureys watched the meeting from a seat on the floor, too.

"In my opinion, it was just another bad decision by our mayor that did nothing to serve the interests of Wauconda's residents," Laureys said on Facebook.

Bart defended the decision to stay put in an email Wednesday morning.

"When we started the meeting we had empty seats," he told the Daily Herald. "Our village attorney was at the high school and he called and said it was empty. We never reached capacity."

In an email Wednesday, Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner said he should have recommended the meeting move to the high school.

"If the attendance numbers did not exceed capacity at the start of the meeting, the increasing numbers throughout the first part of the meeting likely put attendance near or in excess of the room capacity," Maxeiner said. "Even if the capacity of the room was not met, I should have suggested moving the meeting to the high school for the comfort of those attending the meeting."

A sign posted in the boardroom said maximum capacity for the space is 118 people.

Some residents went to the high school first, expecting the meeting would be moved because of the anticipated crowd. Village attorney Rudy Magna told people there that the session would be at village hall, so people drove over and found the boardroom was full.

"Standing in the lobby, I couldn't hear what was being said," Laureys said. "So I thought, if the mayor is not going to move the meeting, I'm just going to go sit on the floor."

As the crowd grew, the temperature in the room rose. Some residents fanned themselves with meeting agendas to stay cool.

A few people in the audience complained about the lack of seating and room, but no one on the dais requested the meeting be relocated to the school.

In an email to the Daily Herald, Wauconda business owner and frequent Bart critic Maria Weisbruch called the mayor's lack of action on the venue inappropriate and disrespectful.

"The school was ready to go and the meeting should have been moved," said Weisbruch, who had a seat and spoke several times during Tuesday's meeting.

Near the end of the meeting, Barbini requested next week's session - set to feature a detailed presentation about the outsourcing proposal - be held at the school to accommodate a large crowd. Officials need to confirm space will be available.

Maxeiner is recommending the village contract for 911 services with nearby Lake Zurich. He'll lead next week's presentation.

If the 911 center closes, 10 full-time and two part-time positions would be eliminated. The move could save Wauconda about $2.1 million over five years.

The board could vote on the plan in March.

The proposal was not on Tuesday's agenda. Aside from responding to some of the audience's questions, neither Bart nor the trustees discussed the matter during the meeting.

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