For many years, three local municipalities have been collaborating on what they say is a much-needed Community Center. In less than two weeks, they will learn if they get the go-ahead to build it.
Research shows after school hours before parents get home from work, teens are at the most risk for unhealthy behaviors. The idea behind the collaboration is to provide a place for teens to hang out.
The Village of Holmen, the Town of Holland and the Town of Onalaska have all been asked to contribute $500,000 to the project. Holmen has already committed to funding the center; however, Holland and Onalaska have to put it up for referendum.
"The need for a youth center has been evident in our community for a long, long time,” said Laurie Kessler, a school counselor at Holmen High School.
Kessler has dedicated her life to helping adolescents. In 2008, she helped create a youth center but the lack of space forced it to close its doors four years later.
"By the end of that time, we had 100 kids coming every night so the need was evident, the kids wanted to come; they needed to come,” said Kessler. “Then the search began for a new spot. I plead my case all over town and really came up short."
Eventually Kessler connected with other community members and found people of all ages needed a place to go.
"It's not only our kids, it's our families, it's our folks who are retired, it's our people who are new to the community. We need a place to come together and say we care about each other and you are important to us,” said Mary Lin Wershofen, a Village of Holmen community member.
Three separate municipalities came together to design a community center to serve all of their residents.
The proposed 22,000 square-foot building's price tag is somewhere between $4.2 and $4.5 million.
"Each town was asked for half a million dollars. We looked at the contribution per household and what that would be. We looked at the number of households in the Village of Holmen, the Town of Holland and the Town of Onalaska,” said Bob Stupi, supervisor for the Town of Holland.
If the referendum is approved, each household in the towns of Holland and Onalaska would contribute about $70 a year for three years, which is a total of $210.
"It's like most communities, no one wants to see an increase in payments of any kind, but on the other side of that coin, these communities in the area have always been fantastic when it comes to helping,” said Jerry Monti, a community representative for the Town of Onalaska.
Almost a decade’s worth of time and energy has been put into creating a place for all ages to enjoy. Now all that is standing in its way is a yes from local residents.
"If that yes vote doesn't happen, what is the message we are giving to our kids? This really is the first chance that we really get to have the community say yes this is important; this is about caring for our community; this is a yes vote for care, more than it's a yes vote for money,” said Wershofen.
Right now, the plans and cost of the building are tentative. If they change, it could impact how much a taxpayer will contribute. However, the towns of Holland and Onalaska have the exact same language on the referendum saying it will not exceed the sum of $70 a year.
The construction of the community center will take about 14 months. If the referendum passes, the municipalities will go ahead with a fundraising campaign and start building as soon as possible.