The Boulder Junction Building Committee, meeting last week, was reminded by member Greg Vangrinsven at the start of the meeting that the date for the first of two public information meetings for the project was coming fast.
The committee was formed in January of this year by the town board to put together a plan for a new community center that would cost no more than $2.3 million.
The proposed building, 14,000 square feet in size, would house not only an expanded meeting area and kitchen for local groups to use but also the town offices, the police office and an expanded public library.
A meeting of the town’s electors, the outcome of which would decide the building proposal’s fate, is set for Oct. 11. The first of two public information meetings is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. The second public information meeting is set for Thursday, Oct. 4, 2:30 p.m.
“So, folks, two weeks away from our first public information meeting,” he said. “Urgency is upon us.”
Vangrinsven has been in charge of the committee’s communications team and said he wanted to begin the meeting with a review of some of the feedback committee members have been getting at different meetings with civic groups as well from people out in the public.
“So, what I would like to just have us talk about is ‘What did we hear?’” he said. “I mean, overall, was it positive? Were there any interesting questions, anything that just stood out from those conversations? What did we learn?”
Board member Jim Fragassi said he’s heard many positive comments and that people think it’s a great idea.
“I haven’t really heard any negative things, other than what I read in The Lakeland Times,” he said.
Boulder Junction town board member Dennis Reuss, also a member of the building committee, said the biggest question he’s been asked is about the expense.
“Not so much that they’re for it or against it, but the expense,” he said. “That concerns me a great deal.”
At the time of the meeting, the committee didn’t have a set cost estimate for the proposal. Nor did committee members know an estimate of what it would cost the individual taxpayer – information that was expected over the course of the coming days. Committee members those numbers would be available at the public information meetings.
“I don’t know how you’re going to build a building worth building for less than [$2.3 million],” Fragassi said.
Reuss said he had taken the project to two contractors, one electrical and one heating and air conditioning, to get some sort of idea of the cost.
He said one of the contractors had reservations, even though he thought it would be a really nice building.
“One of them said, ‘How the hell are you going to build that building for $2.3 million?’” Reuss said. “I told him we’ve had sub-bids on a lot of this already and I told him it’s very doable.”
Town clerk Lois Smith said concerns over the dollar amount is also what she has heard.
“Just too much money,” she said.
Board member Roger Samuelson said he hadn’t heard much about the project at all, except at the library.
“Of course, that’s been very positive,” he said. “We certainly need to expand that library.”
Samuelson said he hadn’t heard anything from the public about the cost for the project.
Library director Cherie Sanderson said she has been asked how much the project would cost the taxpayers.
“People aren’t necessarily saying they’re against the cost,” she said. “They just want to know what the bottom line cost is going to be on taxes.”
Vangrinsven said while participating in several of the presentations committee members have done for local groups over the last several weeks, he was pleasantly surprised at the positive responses from the groups.
As far as the cost numbers, Vangrinsven acknowledged those were needed quickly by the committee.
“We really can’t move forward with some of these documents,” he said, referring to material about the proposal the committee would discuss later in the meeting, “until we have that, I don’t think,” he said.
Vangrinsven said the response, in general, has been positive.
“We need to build on that, I think,” he said.
Vangrinsven said he and Fragassi had recently taken larger versions of architectural drawings for the project to a recent Lions Club meeting in Boulder Junction and had received – as committee members have had in seven or eight similar meetings with area groups prior to that – a positive response.
Fragassi said he thought that’s been because they’ve been presenting to very positive groups.
“We don’t have any other groups to present to,” Vangrinsven said.
“We’ll find them when we have our meeting on the 27th,” Fragassi said. “That’s when I think they’ll come out and then when we’ll find out really where we really stand.”
Smith mentioned another type of voter in the mix.
“There’s going to be the quiet voter that’s just going to exercise their right to vote and may not say much,” she said. “Because they did last time.”
“Last time” was a 2009 vote of the town electorate that ended up in defeat of a new community building in Boulder Junction.
Board member Gene Klisnick said what was being talked about, the groups committee members had made presentations to, were local groups of people who are active in the community. He said the committee had been, in the meetings with local groups, “preaching to the choir.”
“They’re volunteering, they’re helping with all these different things,” he said. “The ones that are in the background are the one worried about taxes and never do a ... thing anyway and those will be the one I don’t know how you’d swing over.”
Klisnick said those are the voters who accept things but don’t necessarily participate to help with things.
“You go around to all these active community groups and they’re all workers, they’re all working at every event or pitching in or donating things like that,” he said.
Vangrinsven acknowledged the nature of those meetings but he still felt the need to build on the positive feedback.
“I think we have a positive base to work from,” he said. “That’s what we need to carry as we move forward with these information meetings coming up and then the ultimate vote.”
Over the course of the rest of the meeting, committee members discussed how the public information meetings would be handled, the format for the meeting of the electors itself, which will be during a town board meeting, the material that would be available to the public at the upcoming public information meetings and mailings for the project.
Clerk/treasurer or not?
Smith said there may be one other item for town electors to consider that night – to decide whether or not to combine the positions of town clerk and town treasurer into one or have a part-time clerk and a part-time treasurer.
Whether or not that item will be up for a vote that night hasn’t been decided, she said.
Another issue Vangrinsven mentioned was phone calls.
“If we have an Achilles heel to this project, that would be we have a lot of support, and then those supporters don’t show up to vote, “ he said. “We brainstormed various techniques campaigns use to try to encourage the vote.”
Vangrinsven said two additional activities were discussed and one – going door-to-door – was dismissed.
The other was a phone survey.
“It would include making a phone call to every registered voter in Boulder Junction,” he said.
Committee members can’t make the phone calls but would have to rely on other volunteers.
The possibility of a phone survey was met with mixed reaction from committee members.
The timing, with an upcoming national election coming up, was considered.
“There’s nothing I hate worse than having a politician call me,” Fragassi said.
The committee ultimately voted against approving a phone survey. Instead, they decided that a phone call on behalf of the building project be nothing more than reminding the person of the Oct. 11 vote.
Before the committee adjourned the two-and-one-half hour meeting, Reuss told the other members he wanted to ask one question of them, and that question was if all committee members were in favor of this building project.
All responded they were.
“Well, it wasn’t that way last time,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that they are, all the committee members, in favor of this project. It’s important and I’m very pleased to hear it.”
“It’s a lot of work and it’s working well. We have to stay positive.”
Brian Jopek may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.