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Code Violations Revive New Building Talks in Wheatland Township

More than a year after residents voted down building plans, Supervisor Todd Morse is proposing a public meeting to revisit the issue.

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An anonymous complaint is stirring up trouble in Wheatland Township, according to Supervisor Todd Morse — and has revived the debate over plans for a new township building.

On July 31, a complaint was filed with Will County alleging “numerous code violations” and “health and safety violations” at the township building on 91st Street in Naperville.

The complaint was filed a year after Wheatland residents held a special meeting to vote down plans to build a new $1.5 million facility for the township.

In a letter dated Aug. 8, Will County Zoning Code Enforcement Manager Elizabeth Dunn notified Morse that the township had 30 days to remedy 27 code violations uncovered by inspectors following up on the complaint.

“Whoever called and complained put me in a bad spot,” Morse said.

At the , voters directed the township board to scrap plans for a new building, ordering them to sell the two-acre parcel of land that was to be used for the facility. The money from the sale would used to rehab the existing township building.

The property, located on 103rd Street near Route 59, was placed on the market, but has not sold.

“I was willing to fix the building, because that’s what the people said to do,” Morse said.

Issues cited by inspectors include the lack of roof venting, water damage, insufficient emergency lighting/exit signage, exposed electrical conductors and the fact that the entrance and front counter do not meet Illinois Accessibility Code standards. 

An architect retained by the board at a special meeting last month is investigating costs associated with bringing the building up to code, and whether it would be cheaper to simply build a new facility, Morse said.

Trustees will address that issue at a special meeting on Wednesday. Morse said they will decide whether to bring the issue before township electors at another town meeting.

“The board has to approve taking it back to the voters,” Morse said, adding the question for residents is, “What do you want us to do with your money?”

The existing building was constructed in the 1970s and formerly housed the township’s highway department, Morse said. The highway department has since moved into a new building. Morse said the township building does not meet current code standards.

Complaint sparks controversy

The township building has long been a contentious issue not only among residents, but also among township officials themselves.

Trustee Joe Hudetz said he believes Morse is using the code violations to get a new township facility built before his term expires in 2013.

“Todd saw it as a mandate to build a new building,” Hudetz said. “He wants it done before he leaves office.”

Hudetz said he believes the violations could be fixed for several thousand dollars.

“There’s nothing urgent that needs to be done right now, other than the 27 items,” he said. “[Morse] has interpreted this as a need to do a major renovation.

“… What Todd is trying to do at this special meeting, I don’t know,” Hudetz added. “Residents voted overwhelmingly for us to stay where we’re at. They spoke, and we’re bound by it.”

Despite the order from residents to sell the property, a township committee was formed earlier this summer to look at the .

Township Deputy Clerk Bill Alstrom said the anonymous complaint raised his suspicions.

“I think it’s been choreographed,” he said. “The timeline is very interesting to me.”

Will County officials won’t reveal who filed the complaint.

Brian Radner, FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) officer for the Will County Land Use Department, cited a state law the protects information that would reveal "the identity of persons who file complaints with or provide information to administrative, investigative, law enforcement or penal agencies."

“They’re protected under some whistleblower law,” said Morse, who denied that he was behind the complaint.

“No, I did not call,” he said. “I’m being accused of making this a political thing.”

Morse said he’s tried to find out who did make the call.

“I’ve asked,” he said. “I want to know who it is.”

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