Herald Journal Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 15, 2002

Restoring village hall idea is popular with public, but not full council

By Lynda Jensen

The Waverly Village Hall briefly took center stage at the Waverly City Council meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting, EDA president Jim Vrchota presented the council with the results of a town meeting that attracted 175 people April 1.

Popularity wise, restoring the village hall was listed as a top five priority by the huge number of residents who attended the meeting.

Other suggestions by residents included improvements to the initial town impression, the lack of small businesses, the number of rundown businesses and houses, and the lack of biking and hiking trails.

All of these things are solvable, Vrchota said.

The meeting was very heavily attended by the community, but only one council member, Gary Olson, attended.

Participation was good even though a wake was being conducted for a well-liked person in town, Margaret Kutz, Vrchota noted.

It was hosted by the Healthy Communities Partnership (HCP), which took a swathe sample of the strengths and weaknesses of Waverly.

Two out of three council members present, Mayor Charlie Bush and council member Ken Hausladen, gave a distinctly chilly reception to the ideas from HCP.

"I understand their concerns," Bush said. However, the city would end up paying for whatever ideas were being conceived, he said. In addition, Bush pointed out that some people at the meeting were country people who did not pay city taxes.

Two thirds of the people there were from the city, Vrchota said. The reason that area people were invited was because they pump dollars into the community, he said.

If it costs money, it would also benefit the city, Vrchota said.

Aside from this, the HCP group was endorsed by the city in the first place and would naturally need the city's input on any project, Vrchota said.

Bush pointed to the village hall, saying it would be nice to have it renovated but that it was an immensely costly item that would be borne by the residents of the city.

The HCP plans to focus on renovation of the village hall.

"I can't disagree with what these people said, but the reality is that we have to represent the city and not the community at large," Bush said.

HCP will be using all different kinds of resources, such as volunteers, and grants from the state, Vrchota said.

Hausladen made it very clear that he did not want anyone to think that the city would pursue renovation of the village hall.

"If we actually choose to go that direction," Hausladen said shortly, following Vrchota's reference to grants.

"If there's an assumption made that it's going to happen . . . I don't want that assumption made," Hausladen emphasizing the last sentence slowly, referring to renovation.

Indeed, many are wondering what may become of the village hall, since the attempt to convert it into a museum for Hubert H. Humphrey was unsuccessful, and the funds needed to bring it up to state code are so substantial.

The city would seek public input for how to spend money, Bush said. "There's going to have to be some homework done before any project like that is taken upon so that the public knows what the cost will be," Bush said

Traditionally, the city has been very reluctant to become financially committed to renovation of the village hall, even when the Humphrey museum idea was being promoted.

Without a dedicated use, it would be very difficult for a bond to be supported by Waverly taxpayers alone, without some kind of plan or financial assistance, commented Birdie Jackson, who is involved the HCP process.

This is an issue the HCP committee planned to focus on, although doing anything with the village hall is so much more difficult when the city does not support it, Jackson said.

A few months ago, the city was notified by the Minnesota Historical Society that it was considering nominating the village hall to its Register of Historic Places.

The city has been leery about having the village hall nominated, since it would make it more difficult to demolish according to state historical criteria, although it could still be done.

A researcher visited Waverly, taking pictures of the village hall, Ryks said.

From there, the state conducted a public hearing in St. Paul about the village hall, during March.

Since then, the city has heard nothing, Ryks said.


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