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Wheatland Residents Reject All Plans for a New Town Hall, Vote to Do Nothing

The decision came after questions were raised about why the township could not use the newly built highway commissioner's building instead of finding new space.

Wheatland Township residents soundly rejected all plans to build or lease space for a new Wheatland Township Administration Center Tuesday night, voting instead for “Option F: Do Nothing.”

It was a question that came up near the end of the meeting -- Why can't the township supervisor and assessor use space in the $3 million highway commissioner's building? -- that prompted the group of nearly 200 to vote to take no action by a landslide.

"It couldn't have turned out better," said Mike Crockett, who was one of group of residents who spearheaded an effort to pull the plug on the township board's plans to build a new $1.5 million town hall.

Options A through E allowed those in attendance at the special meeting, held at Plainfield East High School, to choose from a range of alternatives that included building new, buying an existing building, refurbishing the current township hall and renting office space.

Township Supervisor Todd Morse and Trustee Doug Haddad did not attend the meeting. Morse's wife Brenda did attend, and raised questions about the legality of the proceedings.

The groundswell to take no action began when Naperville resident Brian Blazina proposed the township sell the land at 103rd Street near Route 59, on which the new building was to have been built, and use the proceeds to update the existing facility.

His suggestion came after resident Katherine Havel and others questioned why the township could not share the facility the township highway department built three years ago on the same site as where the new town hall building was to be built.

The group had no ability to mandate that action, however, because the township and the highway department are two separate taxing bodies.

Residents from Plainfield, Naperville and unincorporated areas cast their votes by gathering near signs that represented their choice.

At the end of the night, 27 favored buying a building at 3420 Lacrosse Lane in Naperville, seven wanted to lease office space, two supported building a 3,800-square-foot center and more than 150 voted to "do nothing."

No one voted to retrofit the current town hall or to build the 7,300-square-foot building on 103rd Street, which had been approved by the township board.

Ben Nurczyk, of Naperville, said the board's plan was inappropriate given the current state of the economy.

"If I went in and told my boss I’d like a better building to work in, what do you think he’d say?" Nurczyk said.

“I think the township officials need to understand how bad things are,” he said. “Houses are being boarded up, people are losing their homes. People are losing their homes. They need to do what mom and pop are doing right now and make do with what they have.”

A space analysis committee made up of residents Crockett, Deb Holscher and Rick Peabody and township board members Joe Hudetz and Frank King spent the summer evaluating the pros and cons of all of the options. Although Crockett supported buying the building on Lacrosse Lane, he said he was pleased by how the vote went.

“I wish these people would show up at every government meeting,” Crockett said.

Holscher agreed. “I’m thrilled,” she said. “The big message is ‘We’re watching.”

Holscher and Crockett were among those who first sought to stop plans for the $1.5 million building at the annual April town hall meeting. The movement grew from there, with residents seizing the opportunity to let the public decide the issue by using a state law that once a year lets registered voters cast ballots on issues at the town hall meeting.

Holscher said the decision to table any action until the two-acre parcel on 103rd Street is sold may give residents time to revisit alternatives that until now were deemed off the table, such as having township government share space with the highway department. The space study committee estimates the site may be worth about $350,000.

Or they could use the money from the sale to retrofit the existing town hall building. An estimate obtained by the space committee from JG Rock Construction of Naperville said it would cost about $700,000 remodel the current township building on 91st Street, which was built in 1977 as a machine garage.

Peabody had doubts about remodeling the existing building, citing problems with safety and meeting building codes.

“Putting any more money into that building is putting lipstick on a pig,” he said.

King, who also favored the new building, left the room shortly after “Option F” was added to the ballot.

Brenda Morse posed a series of questions about the legality of the meeting and whether the voters’ resolution would be binding.

“Not only is it authorized, it is a model” said Chicago attorney Doug Ibendahl, who provided legal counsel for the proceedings.

“I hope this will set an example for taxpayers all over the state,” he said.

What happened Tuesday night is the thing he loves about township government, Blazina said.

“That we were able to make a change on the spot is wonderful,” he said. “The great thing about township government is that electors do have a say, we can make a change.”

Owen Wavrinek August 12, 2011 at 03:43 PM
My Conscience, one major service provided by Naperville as opposed to Wheatland Township is the care of roads and drainage problems in incorporated areas. Unincorporated residents depend on the township, you get the job done by the city. Also, there are a lot of services available to seniors and youths that are provided by neighboring townships and Naperville -- which are not available to Wheatland residents. I don't mean to ignore those services that are provided by Wheatland, because they are making progress. For example, a simple thing like the township website was less than awful for years, but has been vastly improved and is now user friendly and informative. I suggest that you visit the websites for Naperville, DuPage and Plainfield townships -- and better yet -- visit their facilities. There is a big difference when compared to Wheatland. Although I agree that you don't need lavish bricks and mortar to provide the services.
Owen Wavrinek August 12, 2011 at 04:11 PM
Mike, Illinois has never been very good at learning from the examples of good government provided by other states. I've always been a believer in benchmarking, but every decision made in Springfield and Washington ends up in the quicksand of political rhetoric. We need more Darlene Sengers and Judy Biggerts, who usually are at least willing to listen to both sides of various issues. With regard to the pensions, I hear you. But someone has to provide the services provided by townships, which are really needed (but should be consolidated) in central and southern Illinois. With regard to Metea Valley H.S., you need to visit the building and talk to the kids, the staff, and parents -- but instead of debating that again here, let's agree to disagree (in perpetuity). Remember, you are talking to someone who has devoted much of his life to community service -- without compensation, pensions, or under-the-table deal making (which is still far too prevalent nationwide). Although I've paid a lot of tax money over the years to help educate the children of our communities (despite having no children of my own), I have always viewed this as my responsibility. The kids are our future and seem to have a better understanding of "we're all in this together." The same concept should apply to the taxes paid for services provided by townships as opposed to incorporated municipalities. Unincorporated residents also help pay for schools/education and shop in local stores and restaurants.
my conscience August 12, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Owen, thanks for the clarification. I agree with a lot of your points. I enjoyed reading your conversation with Mike. You and he seem to have an analytical handle on this subject. And Mike, if everyone had your energy and enthusiasm towards good government we would all be better off. Thanks for your efforts on this. You seem to have gained a majority of support; in fact it seems almost unanimous on the Patch message board except for one particular individual. And that one person seems disproportionately shaken up over the turn of events at Wheatland Township. I was trying to figure out why she seems so angry, but then re-reading the postings from this individual it occurred to me that there might actually be two separate people using the pseudonym "Jane". One “Jane” appears to have a somewhat better grasp of composition and English writing than the other “Jane”. Maybe it is just a coincidence that there are two "Janes" with a similar frantic viewpoint (but in that case one or the other “Jane” surely would have made mention of it). Maybe it is a single person that lapses into and out-of some kind of odd mental state? Or maybe it is two people sharing the same computer, neither of whom is actually named “Jane”. Anyway Mike, you have a pretty tough skin to put up with this badgering from one (or two) critics.
Eunoia August 13, 2011 at 09:37 PM
tood morse threatened people at a restaurant in plainfield in 2010 . he acted strangely agitated at the coffee shop of the wife of the former Mayor of Plainfield - I've read the Police Report that is on file with the Plainfield Police Dept. where this poor woman had to call the Police about Morse's verbal threats ( report) sad man...
Eunoia August 13, 2011 at 09:41 PM
I Like MIKE :)

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