After years of controversy, Wheatland Township has a new home
By Cathy Janek For The Sun February 14, 2013 8:04PM
Chief Deputy Assessor Shari Lee (left) and Office Administrator Carolyn Rominger look over a new pricinct map that will be on display in the meeting area at the new Wheatland Township offices at the strip mall at Route 59 and Andrew Road in Plainfield on Thursday, February 14, 2013. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 16, 2013 6:13AM
After much turmoil, Wheatland Township officials finally have a new place to call home.
It is hardly what some current and former township officials had envisioned.
Located in Units 111 and 117 at 12337 S. Route 59, in the North Plainfield Crossing shopping complex, the new facilities are tucked alongside a sports rehabilitation facility and a pizza joint.
Residents can check out the new facilities and meet with Wheatland officials at an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 19.
A long road
The unassuming storefront facade gives little insight into the township’s tumultuous journey to its new location.
The cost of leasing the new offices is $4,500 per month in addition to a charge of $35,000 to convert the space into offices.
The high costs associated with remedying violations at the township’s former administrative facility at 31W236 91st St. in Naperville were the final straw that prompted the move. The anonymously-reported violations were the latest in a long running disagreement over the township’s administrative facilities.
The township administrative offices had been residing in the Wheatland Highway Department’s former building which had been built in 1977.
The old administrative building had been deemed by some to be an unfavorable working environment. Opponents to a new building claimed it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars, especially during an economic downturn.
“We would have spent a significant amount of money fixing up the old building,” Wheatland Township Supervisor Todd Morse said.
The old facility has been turned into “cold storage” and the township is still having difficulty getting the building up to code, Morse added.
“It has cost about $11,000 just to turn it into cold storage,” he said.
To continue to use the building for administrative purposes, “for the first round of compliancy issues, we had a bid of $48,101,” he said.
Morse also believes that it was likely that more violations would have been found in the rehabbing process, further increasing renovation costs.
“It would have been a money pit that would have never ended,” Morse said.
Nearly a decade ago, township officials first planted the seeds for a new administrative building. Dubbed years later by opponents to be a “Taj Mahal,” the last attempt to resurrect the building on a township-owned lot at 103rd and Route 59 was rejected by 128 residents (with 19 voting for the proposal) who attended a spirited public forum on the issue in 2011.
“We have 85,000 residents in Wheatland Township and only 147 voters weighed in on the issue,” Morse said.
The new facilities offer meeting room space for local groups and the township’s senior and youth committees, Morse said, something that could have never happened at the old building.
Morse outfitted the new space with tables and chairs from a local discount retailer.
“I wasn’t going to pay anyone to haul the furniture; we just took a couple of trips with my pickup truck,” he said.
In 2009, Morse said township officials agreed to construct a 7,200-square-foot township building which was 3,000 square feet smaller than originally proposed.
“Our whole board voted to hire an architect to design a building which was agreed upon until another group got involved,” he said.
The strong opposition to the new building grew into an off-shoot group that is now running for township positions.
Mike Crockett, a Republican candidate for Wheatland Township trustee, has been a vocal opponent of the construction of a new township facility, and said that the need to relocate at all was “suspect.”
“They had to move quickly and they didn’t have time to satisfy the violations in a short period of time. In my mind the whole thing kind of stinks,” he said. “There have been some allegations of mold, but as far as I know none has been found.”
Crockett also had issue with the decision of the current board to purchase new furniture for the new township building.
Crockett said the township should look into consolidating all its operations in the current Highway Department building.
“This would dramatically reduce the cost of township government,” he said. “The second step would be to sell the land at 91st (where the old administrative building sits) and also sell the land at 103rd and Route 59.”
The two-acre property which the township had purchased along Route 59 and 103rd is now for sale for $395,000, Morse said.
“We had gotten one offer, but it was a really low offer,” he said.