John Snow of Libertyville (left to right), Bill Bruce of Grayslake, Joyce Lee of Mundelein and Peter Garrity of Libertyville are trying to save the Brainerd building. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 1:16AM
LIBERTYVILLE — When voters go to the polls in April, they will likely have to decide if they want to spend $3.5 million of their tax dollars to save the historic Brainerd building and turn it into a community center.
Such a tax increase would add approximately $47.50 to the tax bill of a $400,000 property.
At a recent village board meeting, Scott Adams, a member of the executive board of Brainerd Community Center, Inc., presented the village with over 1,000 signatures in support of a ballot measure.
The board, concerned about unclear wording, asked for more clarification before accepting the petition to have the matter put before voters.
Mayor Terry Weppler asked the village attorney to look into whether there is sufficient time to have the issue added to the ballot at this point.
For the members of Brainerd’s board, it has already been a long struggle. Attempts to raise money on their own have somewhat floundered within the last three to four years as the economy has struggled.
At least one member of the board, Trustee Drew Cullom, was concerned that $3.5 million may not be enough to get Brainerd off and running. Cullom said at the meeting that he recalls higher figures being discussed in past years.
There was a consensus among the trustees that there should be a clear explanation of what exactly the $3.5 million would pay for.
Adams said during his brief presentation that this amount would cover fixing the plumbing, making it handicap accessible and otherwise bringing the early 20th century building up to code.
He also stressed that the Brainerd board is not sugarcoating anything and they are aware that this would be a substantial increase in residents’ taxes. He said they have been very up-front about that with everyone they’ve spoken to.
Even if the tax increase does not get on the ballot, there was an agreement that at least one town hall meeting would be held to take the temperature of taxpayers.
John Snow, another Brainerd board member, said he is optimistic but knows the onus is on the champions of the project to convince voters.
“It’s up to us. If we can thoroughly explain the opportunity, I believe it would be approved.”
Snow said that the plan is to eventually use the building for a variety of purposes, but initially it could be a performing arts center.
He said due to the building’s location and size, it can be used in a variety of ways.
At the village board meeting, trustees stressed that they have been very fiscally responsible and would not want that record blemished. There was concern that the community center could fail and the village would be stuck with paying to demolish the building or continuing to pay for the lease from the school district.
“I know you’ve heard one side,” Trustee Cullom said to Adams at the meeting. “I’ve heard another.”
It remains to be seen which side will win out and what Brainerd’s destiny will be.