November 21, 2014

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Wellington Council reticent to donation request for school auditorium

A preliminary artist's rendering show the proposed $2.5 million auditorium in Wellington. If enough money is raised to build it before Jan. 30, the building will be adjacent to the new junior high school being built near Wellington High School off state Route 58. COURTESY PHOTO

A preliminary artist’s rendering show the proposed $2.5 million auditorium in Wellington. If enough money is raised to build it before Jan. 30, the building will be adjacent to the new junior high school being built near Wellington High School off state Route 58. COURTESY PHOTO

WELLINGTON — Village leaders have been asked to contribute $10,000 to $25,000 to the effort to build a $2.5 million auditorium adjacent to the new $16.8 million junior high school that will open in 2015.

But the proposal is drawing criticism from some members of Village Council and concern from legal counsel.

The village solicitor, Steve Bond, warned that the village would be required to receive the equivalent of the donation in return, Mayor Barb O’Keefe said.

Plus, O’Keefe said, the Friends of the Wellington Community Auditorium has been stressing that no tax dollars would be involved in funding the auditorium.

“They advertised there would be no taxpayer dollars, and this would be taxpayer dollars,” O’Keefe said.

Helen Dronsfield, the Council member proposing the donation, did not return several phone calls. All of the other five Council members said they are likely to vote against it if it comes up for a vote.

Council President Jeff Hyde said the Council’s Finance Committee will take up the matter 6 p.m. Monday in Council chambers.

Hyde said he plans to vote against the donation, although Council likely will pass a resolution of full support to the effort to build the auditorium through charitable donations.

“This project is wanted and desired,” Hyde said.

There is a need for a community auditorium, Hyde said. When a gas pipeline burst in the community, the auditorium at McCormick handled a crowd of citizens, Hyde said.

Council member Sandy Denes, one of the Council representatives on the friends committee, said she supports the project but not the donation.

“I don’t think it’s legal,” Denes said. “This is pushing the envelope.”

Several Council members expressed concern that village taxpayers and people who work inside the village would foot the cost of the donation, but the school district covers a number of townships.

Council member Hans Schneider said the use of taxpayer dollars “goes against everything they’ve been saying they’re not going to do.”

“We’re a small community trying to make our budgets,” Schneider said of the village.

Council member Steve Mauer, who also serves on the friends committee, said giving village money for the project would set a poor precedent.

“Where do you stop?” Mauer asked.

Dronsfield’s daughter, Samantha Stump, is heading publicity for the effort on behalf of the school system and the friends group.

She said she thinks support from the village would be an important piece to the funding puzzle.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.