The Village of Egg Harbor has created a friends group to keep construction of its new library and community center moving forward while a lawsuit brought by a group to stop the project is settled.
The friends group was formed solely to sign a build contract with Boldt Construction Co.
On May 15 the friends group signed two contracts, the first with the village saying that the group would sign a contract with a company to work on the project, and then a second contract with Boldt Construction to perform the work. The Door County Community Foundation will act as financier of the project, with the village as the project manager. Once the library is completed, the friends group will turn over the keys to the village.
“Because of the lawsuit, they just put up a lot of barriers to a traditional contract between the village construction company so it caused the need to be doubly creative trying to figure out how to move the project forward,” said Kaaren Northrop of the friends group. “Every time there is a roadblock, we have found ways to move past that. This final roadblock, which resulted in the formation of the friends group, should be foolproof and we should be able to proceed and finish the project.”
The lawsuit brought by Village of Egg Harbor Planned Growth Alliance LLC contended that the village had disobeyed a 2008 ordinance created through referendum that prevented the village from spending more than $1 million on a project. When the village committed to spending $1.5 million on the library project, the plaintiffs, Clarence and Mary Ann Scherer, Angela Lensch, Kevin Egan and Robert Doneff, sought an injunction to halt the project and wanted the village to return all money committed to the project to village coffers. The village board members thought the statute had expired, and did away with it at their next meeting, replacing it with a new $1.5 million cap on village spending on a project before it must go to referendum.
The case was first heard in March by Door County Circuit Court Judge D. Todd Ehlers, who refused to halt construction on the project.
Ehlers heard the case again May 2 and ruled that while it was bad that the village ignored its own statute, it had acted legally at its next board meeting in eliminating the statute. He also refused to grant the permanent injunction sought by the plantiffs.
But that hasn’t made the situation any better.
“It’s created this feud and disharmony in the village that is affecting a lot of people,” Northrop said. “That is a really bad side effect. People are angry. There’s tons of misinformation out there. This is a pretty nice little village and to have this fight going on is not a nice thing. It’s going to take time to heal.”
Northrop said the village is getting a bargain in the library project, with $5 million of the $6.5 million total cost coming from private donations. She likens this to the opposition that arose when an auditorium was proposed for Gibraltar High School 30 years ago.
“Now I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think the Door Community Auditorium is one of the best things in Door County,” said Northrop, who serves on the auditorium’s board of directors.
Weariness enters the voice of the usually chipper village administrator Ryan Heise when he talks about the library and lawsuit these days.
“I feel this group is going to come out again and try to find someone else, but after Monday when this contract is signed, it’s past the point of no return,” Heise said. “I don’t know who they’re going to sue after that.”