SOLON– The Solon City Council will ask residents to decide whether or not to purchase the Brosh Chapel as the site for a new city hall.
At an Aug. 3 meeting, council members voted to move forward with the purchase of Brosh location, contingent on voter approval of a bond issue on the November general election ballot.
Now, the city will spend the next two months deciding on financing options and trying to educate the public about the reasons behind the decision.
City staff, council members and Mayor Rick Jedlicka have spent months discussing the Brosh site, offered to the city in spring for $1.3 million. Since then, both the Solon Public Library and another Main Street location have also been considered as possible a possible new home for the city’s offices, currently at 223 S. Iowa St.
But now it’s official.
During the Aug. 3 session, council members formally voted against utilizing a reverse referendum to push the project through, and later voted to proceed with the purchase, dependent on the outcome of the election.
The reverse referendum would have required Solon residents to petition for a ballot issue on the decision, and at least one council member wanted to keep it as a possibility.
“I don’t know how everyone feels about that,” city council member Cami Rasmussen said. “I, however, would like us to keep that option on the table.” Rasmussen saw the decision as a necessary business expense for the city, one which was being prudently planned, sending the message that the council members are being good stewards. “We recognize this is a good option and this is a good use of the city’s money to purchase this building and establish this as the city hall for now and for the future.”
Council member Sue Ballantyne, who has been lukewarm to the potential purchase, took an opposing viewpoint.
“I will support this project going to a public vote,” Ballantyne said. “I will not support it through a reverse referendum.”
She saw little advantage, noting she believed residents would find the needed signatures for a petition.
“I think you’re just sending the wrong message to the public about this project if you try to spend $1.3 million of the taxpayers’ money without a referendum for them to vote on,” she said. “I think you need to have them 100 percent behind you.”
Steve Stange agreed with Rasmussen that it’s the right decision for the city, but he also favored an election.
“I want the community to know that I think this is a really good opportunity for us land-wise and building-wise,” Stange said. “But I also believe it is part of their decision.”
Taking it to a vote of the people was Brad Kunkel’s view as well. Kunkel said the reverse referendum was not his idea of democracy. “I’m confident of it– I think it will pass, because it makes sense,” he said.
The final word came from council member Mark Krall, who said spending that amount of money should go to the people for a vote.
A motion eliminating the reverse referendum was approved, followed shortly by another moving forward with the purchase contingent on the election’s outcome.
According to Mayor Jedlicka, the council is expected to vote on the language for the ballot at its Sept. 7 meeting, with a decision on how to repay the debt Sept. 21.
A number of scenarios using a mix of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds and debt service levy have been considered by the council, but members have differed on how it would be split (60/40, 50/50). That will likely be hashed out at that Sept. 21 session, if not before.
And then the month of October will be spent, Jedlicka noted, explaining to the public why the city believes this is the right thing to do.
As the city continues to grow, the mayor said, it needs to put its best foot forward as far as appearance. The Brosh facility will accommodate city growth in staffing and services as well, he continued.
“Given what is available for the price, I don’t think you can go wrong,” he concluded.
At an Aug. 17 meeting, Jedlicka said noted he and City Administrator Cassandra Lippincott have scheduled a visit with the Solon Women’s Club, and he suggested the city also make an appearance before Old Gold Diners and other organizations.
Earlier in the meeting, Solon Public Works Director Scott Kleppe reported he and newly appointed Activities Coordinator Travis Young attended a recent senior dining meal where the Brosh building was being discussed. “They say there’s no way it’ll pass without more information,” Kleppe said of the feedback from diners. “Just to let you know, they are talking about it now.”