As the city council works to reopen the Port Clinton Parking Garage and , both elected officials and residents are beginning to ask how these facilities became unsafe to begin with.
The council after both facilities were examined by an independent fire inspector, which led Highland Park Fire Chief Pat Tanner . that the preliminary report cited the sprinkler system in both facilities as safety concerns, a conclusion echoed by members of the city council.
"We've also been told that the sprinklers in the garage are past their normal life expectancy," said .
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Since then, the city council to discuss how and when the facilities would be reopened. At the second meeting, held this past Saturday, the city council voted unanimously to begin working to repair the garage. Lane Young, a Patch blogger and former city council candidate, tweeted that work on the garage may have already begun.
Reopening the theater, Young noted, will be trickier.
"Issues w/making theatre safe not limited to fire suppression & egress," Young tweeted Saturday, echoing concern. "How much $ should be spent?"
Blumberg was not the only one wondering about costs. Because the the city council is currently seeking Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for the theater, both council members and the mayor are unsure how much the city should spend on the facility before someone buys it.
"If someone else is going to buy the theater, it's not the best use of city dollars to put a lot of money into it," Mayor Nancy Rotering told Patch before the first meeting. "We need to see what it would cost to have [the theater] safe enough to open now and see where things go as we move ahead with the possibility… for someone to take it over."
Some Patch readers feel too much of their taxpayer dollars have already been put into the theater.
"The taxpayers spent at minimum, $2 million, to acquire the Theater," commented Patch blogger David Greenberg. "Was it worth it? Or did we simply tie up money that may have been better utilized for needs elsewhere?"
Others though, are wondering if the city has spent enough. Former mayor Mike Belsky where he suggested that cuts to the city budget contributed to the sprinklers in these facilities going unchecked.
"One of the casualties in this ... was fire and building inspection services," Belsky wrote. "Less government sometimes can have dire consequences."
There may be something to his concerns. The Highland Park News reports that Highland Park's fire department has been understaffed since 2010, resulting in fewer fire code inspections.
"Our whole process needs to be reviewed," Tanner told the Highland Park News.
Yet in the same story, the Highland Park News also reports that the city council began asking questions about the theater's sprinkler system months ago. Rotering and city council members were told in February by Mary Anderson, the city's former Public Works director, and Patrick Brennan, the city's former acting City Manager, that the sprinkler system in the theater was operational, the Highland Park News reports.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that this sprinkler system was deemed fully operational at the end of February,” Mayor Nancy Rotering told the Highland Park News on Monday.
Both Brennan and Anderson resigned in April.
Northbrook-based S.E. Moran Fire Protection has begun a 24-hour work schedule in order to replace Port Clinton garage's sprinkler system so it can be reopened by May 23, according to Highland Park News.
"The garage is getting fixed as we speak," Councilman Steve Mandel told Patch on Monday. He added that he hopes the theater will be open again soon as well.
"I'm anxious to see that theater reopened," Mandel said.