Supervisors discuss future county board chamber options
By Heather Graves
BROWN COUNTY – Where the Brown County board will meet this month and in the future, remains unclear after supervisors considered the topic at their meeting last month.
The discussion was whether to allocate at least $400,000 to remodel and equip a proposed county board chambers/multi-purpose meeting room in the lower level of the Brown County Central Library.
Instead of voting on the item, supervisors voted unanimously to direct staff to gather information, including costs, regarding a return of regular monthly meetings to Green Bay City Hall – and held a vote on the possible funds allocation for 60 days.
“I just think we need more numbers so we have a better understanding,” District 12 Supervisor Dave Landwehr said.
The county board has met in the Green Bay city council chambers for decades.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and city hall shut down, that changed.
After meeting virtually for a couple of months, the board began meeting at various locations throughout the county, including the Resch Center, the Resch Expo and most recently the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center at the Oneida Casino, to allow for social distancing.
None of these, however, are an option as a permanent location for county chambers, which leaves the board in limbo.
With city hall reopening June 1, the board needs to decide whether to continue holding its meetings there or look for other options.
“Sooner or later we will have to figure out where your home is going to be,” said Chad Weininger, director of administration. “The mayor just notified us that the chambers will be open starting June 1, so that is an option, but we are out of contract with them so we would have to renegotiate.”
The original motion, brought forward by District 17 Supervisor John Van Dyck, came to the full board May 19 with a recommendation from the Administration Committee to direct corporation counsel to draft a resolution to set aside the $400,000 for the library project.
Van Dyck said he pulled the item for discussion to gauge interest before moving forward.
“Before doing so and potentially wasting corp counsel’s time, I thought it was important to pull this item this evening and have the conversation on whether this is something the board wants to do,” he said. “The reason I brought this up in the first place is there has been a fair amount of discussion regarding this option up to this point. There have been a number of meetings and hours expended by the staff of the library, as well as others. We’ve also spent some money with a consultant, and we’ve kind of reached a point where unless the board is willing to sort of put up the money to be able to do this, it doesn’t really make any sense to continue to expend money in an effort to move this forward.”
Van Dyck said after further research, when it’s all said and done, the county’s portion would be closer to $700,000-$800,000.
The proposed space in the downtown library is currently unused.
“When you come down the main staircase and get to the lower level, when you get to the bottom and the elevators are in front of you, there is a large room to the right, which is currently being used as basically a storage facility,” he said. “It is a room that I think is about twice as big in total as the city council chambers. So right now it is not being utilized.”
Van Dyck said it would be set up as a multi-purpose room allowing the library to rent it out when the board isn’t using it, which could have revenue potential for the county.
“The equipment wouldn’t be built in like it is in city council chambers, it would be portable,” he said. “So we would be able to set the computers up, take them down and then it could be used for business purposes.”
Some supervisors cited technological issues and scheduling conflicts as reasons to look outside the city council chambers for the county board’s permanent home.
“I mean, we’ve had problems in Green Bay my whole 12 years,” District 2 Supervisor Thomas DeWane said. “It was continuous, no matter how much we put it in. It seems like we are the only ones putting into it, yet we’re calling somebody month after month to try and get it fixed. It’s never really worked for us. Why not do it right? (The library) is not a short-term idea, it’s a long-term. We’ve been working on this for a long, long time. I think that is a lot better idea than trying to continue with the city.”
Others said the cart is being put before the horse.
“Because we do have chambers that we share with Green Bay, I think we need to talk to them about what their future plans are and how much it is going to be,” said District 25 Supervisor Thomas Lund. “I’m not against going ahead with this, but I think we should wait until we’ve done our due diligence with the city. We’ve been in those council chambers since I’ve been on the board, for 19 years. They’ve always served us pretty well until this pandemic. I think it is very convenient for people to go to city hall for meetings. They were always aware that the meetings were always there. We’ve never had too many problems. I just don’t think we don’t want to go and spend $400,000 when we don’t have to.”
Others agreed it shouldn’t be a rushed decision.
“This is a big investment,” District 24 Supervisor Richard Schadewald said. “But understand, we don’t even have any comparison yet. I would really advocate waiting. Let’s not rush. Personally, I like the city council chambers, you have windows, you can see out. This is going to be in a basement.”
Editor’s note: To read about the Brown County Crisis Center relocating to Gershwin Drive, CLICK HERE.