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Waukegan plans improved oversight at Genesee Theatre

Organ parts Genesee Theatre storage space thcity official said was tagged for preservatiwhen officials cleaned out space earlier this month.

Organ parts in a Genesee Theatre storage space that a city official said was tagged for preservation when officials cleaned out the space earlier this month. | Courtesy of city of Waukegan

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Updated: February 5, 2014 3:26AM

Waukegan City Council members called for more oversight at the Genesee Theatre this week, following complaints that a recent clean-out of theater storage areas led to usable items being thrown in the trash.

“It’s been no one’s responsibility on the city payroll to make sure what was going on down there,” 3rd Ward Ald. Gregory Moisio said on Monday, Dec. 2. “That’s probably our fault. In fact, it is our fault not to have someone on the city payroll down there checking to make sure that the interests of the city — which is the taxpayers — are taken care of.”

Moisio’s mother, Waukegan Historical Society life member Marilyn Moisio, was among those reporting to the council on Nov. 18 that a weeklong clean-up of a fifth-floor storage area early last month November resulted in items like replacement seats and rolls of carpeting being sent to landfills.

Waukegan Historic Preservation Commission member Wayne Munn, who also addressed the topic on Nov. 18, returned this week to tell the council that “I was not contacted by any of the aldermen, nor did anyone at City Hall call me,” after he expressed concerns that items of value had been tossed.

“Some comments have suggested that the information that was presented (at the Nov. 18 council meeting) was exaggerated, but also, nobody asked to see what it was I talking about,” said Munn, adding that “I hope we can improve our oversight on the operations and management of property, and I will certainly be working on my own to uncover any more issues.”

Seventh Ward Ald. Lisa May echoed information provided last week by city spokesman David Motley that the storage area was cleared out to free up space for more off-stage programs at the Genesee.

“There are many wonderful artifacts that were saved — the organ has been saved, the blueprints have been saved,” May said. “Did some things inadvertently get thrown away? Unfortunately, yes. (But) there was not enough carpet to cover an entire room. It wasn’t like rolls and rolls of carpeting.”

May added that officials at Pleasant Prairie-based ULine Inc., which began providing some $300,000 in annual support for the Genesee in 2011, are “very interested in cutting down on the subsidy that they have to pay to keep the theater running.”

“They’re writing the check for management and operation of the theater,” May said. “So the purpose behind the clearing of these rooms was to make a more professional presentation for banquets and weddings so we can actually stage and up our game in that area of the theater. Events are big money, but we (had) space that cannot be utilized.”

Moisio said the city “probably failed” in not having a representative involved in the clean-up to keep an eye on things of value or theater artifacts. By not doing so, he added, a situation arose where “no one really knows, things are all over, it becomes embarrassing and we have to fix it.”

“To me, it’s a systems problem — we had a bad system in place,” Moisio said. “We didn’t have anybody on the city payroll that was responsible. Ultimately, the nine of us (on the council) are responsible for it, because we didn’t see it coming. So we need to discuss that further and get that straightened out.”

Munn told the council that he’s been told that several valuable items have been moved to “an undisclosed, secure and alarmed location. I think it would be a good idea for people to go out there independently (to see) what’s up.”

While Mayor Wayne Motley was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting, 6th Ward Ald. Larry TenPas, who acted as mayor pro tempore, told Munn that “I know the mayor did go down there right away (after the Nov. 18 meeting), and he’ll continue looking into it, I’m sure.”

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