Does Sussex Need a New Village Hall? Panel Says 'Yes'
Study group recommends the village construct an entirely new building and connect it to library.
The study group's proposal recommends building a roughly 20,000-square-foot facility somehow connected to the Pauline Haass Public Library in an effort to create a “civic campus.” The project would be done in conjunction with the Main Street reconstruction process, which is slated to start in 2015.
The recommendation will come before the Village Board on Nov. 8, and approval by trustees would be a major step in moving the project forward.
“This is a type of project that would need a lot of voter input, but the goal would be to put it on the next Village Board meeting on Nov. 8,” said Village Administrator Jeremy Smith. “They could adopt the report and get it rolling for 2014. In the world of politics, that’s about as committed as you’re going to get.”
If approved, the project would be included in Sussex’s 2014 capital improvement plan. Every few years, the village budgets roughly how much money will be spent during the upcoming years. Considering the village didn’t already budget for such a major project, it could be included in the 2014-2020 plan.
Starting the process in 2014 would also give the village time to give tours to residents to explain why a new Village Hall is needed. It was made apparent during the committee meeting that — considering the rapid growth in Sussex — the converted school just isn’t working anymore.
“This building will just end up costing us dollar after dollar, and my opinion is that this building should come down,” said Greg Goetz, village president and committee member. “But at the end of the day, I definitely think this is important, especially in line with the downtown plan.”
Village Hall was last remodeled in the 1980s.
Issues with the current building
At last week's committee meeting, all members agreed that except for employees, residents rarely see beyond the meeting hall in the basement or the first-floor lobby. This presents a problem when trying to convince villagers an expensive new village hall is needed.
There were even residents on the committee who needed convincing before agreeing to abandon the idea of salvaging the current building. That committee included residents, business owners, an architect and a village trustee.
Along with space problems, members noted the serious lack of security, accessibility for the elderly or disabled, meeting rooms and maintaining any consistent heating or cooling. They said it would cost just as much to build a new facility than it would to add an expansion while correcting the current problems.
How decisions were made
A study was first completed and discussed before committee members began giving their input in February and March. During one meeting, the group did an exercise to see what they wanted most from a renovation.
Nine objectives were selected, and committee members had a set amount of votes they could give, meaning their highest priority would get the most votes. In the end, the members decided that identifying and growing Sussex’s downtown was most important, while the tax implications were the least.
In April and June, the committee was given 14 locations for a possible village hall. An architect and committee member created renderings of what a 20,000 square-foot building would look like.
They eventually chose the current location, and not to repurpose the current village hall because of its high maintenance costs and unappealing aesthetics. Also, the current location is central to the community and walkable to other important Sussex locations.
If the village board approves the proposal on Nov. 8, it could set the ball rolling on hiring an architect and gathering a design committee.