RHA meets Quorom, has lots of RA requests

Resident Assistant Funds Requests dominated the proceedings at the Residence Hall Association meeting on Nov. 19.

With no old business and no guest speakers, new business was the focus. Quorum had to be met for the RHA members to vote on the new business, and for the first time in nearly a month, it was. There were 6 RA funds request, with one being tabled for another meeting.

The other new business involved a speaker named Betsy Jordan who talked about the upcoming book drive and passed out fliers. Jordan said she hoped to start the drive immediately, and asked members to bring books from home when they returned from Thanksgiving break.

“Any type of books you don’t want anymore, they can be children’s books all the way up to college reading level, please bring,” Jordan said. “I just want to get as many books as possible from students.”

The three areas Jordan said she hopes to donate the books: the homeless shelter, domestic violence victims and prisons.

Following Jordan were the many RA funds requests. RAs have up to $100 they can request from RHA each semester for various activities or initiatives. The requests varied from money for an ice cream social to money to host an end of semester pizza party for those with good grades.

The board approved all of the requests from the RAs unanimously. There is no RHA meeting scheduled for next week due to Thanksgiving; therefore the next meeting will be Dec. 2.

 

Other issues brought up at the meeting included:

  • Suggestions for possible new themed food nights at Esker Dining Hall. RHA Dining Committee member Tim Soja solicited ideas from members of RHA to bring back to the committee for its next meeting.
  • A Whitewater Student Government representative asked the members of RHA if they had voted for WSG senate elections. If they hadn’t he reminded them that voting closed that night and asked them to even “vote on their phones” if they could.

Zoning Debate Dominates Meeting

A heated debate over a zoning dispute in the Town of Lake Mills took center stage at the Jefferson County Board meeting Tuesday, October 29.

Phillip and Sandra Bittorf own the 3.2 acres of land in question, and want that part of their 40-acre property rezoned so they are legally ok to store their business’s equipment.

Currently the land is zoned A-1 Exclusive Agriculture, and the family is seeking a change to A-2 Agricultural and Rural Business. The Bittorfs business is known as Mid-State Traffic Control: a road construction item business that supplies highways signs and traffic signals among others.

The Town of Lake Mills Board of Supervisors and Town of Lake Mills Planning Commission initially approved the rezoning in August. When the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee reviewed the request further in September it was denied, which led to the request to the full board at this meeting.

Attorneys for both sides of the argument were present and given 10 minutes to speak. Attorney Tyler Wilkinson of Axley Law Firm spoke on behalf of the Bittorf family and said the rezoning should go through as it helps a small business to survive, and there wouldn’t be excess danger with trucks driving to the site.

A group of 10 men and women also expressed their support for the Bittorf family. Many of the people brought up the sterling safety reputation the Bittorfs had and how helpful the family had been to local citizens.

Attorney Jay Smith of Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet & Smith, LLP spoke on behalf of eight property owners located on the same road as the Bittorfs. Smith said his clients felt that there was no way for the family to prove they could be 100 percent safe and that risk was too high. He also argued that the property was zoned as it was for a reason and shouldn’t be changed.

Several neighbors voiced their opposition citing safety as well. Many opposed repeated forms of the phrase “it isn’t personal.”

Chairperson of the Planning and Zoning Committee Steven Nass also spoke out about the changing of opinion by the two boards.

“When [the Planning and Zoning Committee] came to our public hearing, there were 13 opposed and zero came in favor of this petition,” Nass said. “All the people that spoke in public comment tonight were not participatory in our decision making. We can only make a decision based on the information we have that day and that’s how we made our decision.”

At the end of the meeting, the board took to a vote to decide if it would send the zoning request back to the Planning and Zoning Committee or deny the zoning request. A large majority, 24-3, voted to send it back to the committee.

 

Other issues brought up at the meeting included:

  • Henry Gibbemeyer was the first graduate of the Alcohol Treatment Court. He spoke about his time in the course and how it helped him get sober and become a better person. He also listed the strict requirements for members of the program to avoid going to jail including: mandatory breathalyzers, Alocoholics Anonymous meeting and court dates. Gibbemeyer said the program is great for the community and that he learned how big the impact of his actions while intoxicated could be.
  • The 2016 budget tax levy was announced. It will reach approximately $70 million. The vote for the county budget will occur in early November.

Budget the focus of Common Council

Whitewater’s proposed budget for 2016 was the main focus of the Whitewater Common Council meeting on Oct. 6.

City Manager Cameron Clapper presented the budget with a word of caution for the future.

“We need to look at ways to fund things, which is always a big issue every year since costs go up and levies stay the same,” Clapper said. “We are bumping up against a ceiling that will require changes to how we fund things if we want to be successful in the future.”

One unusual cost for the upcoming budget involves repairs for the Whitewater Aquatic Center. The budget allocates $50 thousand for the center. It is jointly operated by the Whitewater School District and the city of Whitewater.

Overall the proposed 2016 budget has an increase of $305,397 from the nearly $9.5 million 2015 budget. The tax levy will also increase 1.5 percent to $46,076.

The money for the budget, known as revenue, will come from a wealth of sources including: Intergovernmental revenue, public fees, licenses and permits, and a variety of taxes, among others.

Whitewater’s expenditures, or expenses, will include: public safety, general government, debt service and sinking funds, community development, and DPW/recycling.

The Common Council will review the budget in its next four meetings, with final adjustments at the Nov. 17 meeting. The finalized budget will be distributed to the council, members of government and citizens of Whitewater who request it in late December.

Clapper summed up the budget by saying it was tough, but that the cuts the city had were expected.

“We expect those cuts, and they are right around what we anticipated,” Clapper said. “We are getting to a point now where we can look at thinning out parts of the organization, but we are really starting to impact the quality of life long-term the more thing we have to remove from operation and things we provide as a city.”

 

Other issues brought up at the meeting included:

  • Whitewater Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher renewed her contract with the city for three years.
  • The City of Whitewater officially selected a towing company for use in city matters. After soliciting bids, Fero’s Auto Repair was chosen.
  • Downtown Whitewater, Inc. executive director Tami Brodnicki Resigned. Kristine Zaballos, a board of directors member for the organization, discussed possibly re-evaluating the mission and future of the group with the board.

State Budget is main issue at City Council meeting

Governor Scott Walker’s proposed state budget was the main focus at Tuesday night’s Whitewater City Council meeting.

Alderman Stephanie Abbott, a well-known Republican, said even she was “concerned” with Walker’s proposal.

“I’ve been part of Governor Walker’s party most of my life, but I also consider myself more Whitewater than anything else,” Abbott said. “I really do hope that the people who represent Whitewater at the state level will make the right decision and find a better way (to cut the budget).”

The resolution to show city support of UW-Whitewater opposition to the proposed state budget cuts was requested by Council member’s Lynn Binnie and Ken Kidd.

Each member had his/her own chance to share his or her thoughts on the budget, and the resolution was approved unanimously.

“I do share the fear of a lot of people up here that this would be a major hit not only to the university but to also our city and all the people who choose to live here,” Abbott Said.

Cameron Clapper, the city planner, also went over several points in the budget and how they would affect Whitewater in a power point.

He highlighted what the new budget would do to the city and school. According to Clapper’s PowerPoint, UW-Whitewater would lose almost $15 million in revenue in its first two years under the new budget.

The other resolutions on the table also passed unanimously, but the other main one was probably the one brought up by Parks and Recreation director Matt Amundson. He explained how a new ramp or lift that would have to be installed at the local armory would work.

“The proposal will bring our ramps up to ADA compliance as well as repair several structural concerns with the ramps,” Amundson said.

Other items included:

  • A deal with the University to allow the access to the city’s emergency operations center in the event of an emergency.
  • The approval to buy property that is directly next to City Water Works in Starin Park.
  • Approval for the Wisconsin Independent Network to use city-owned conduits to expand it’s fiber optic cable network.
  • The League of Wisconsin Municipalities Partnership for Prosperity Agenda wanting to make improvements to the way the city makes a levy, and making sure Whitewater get’s it’s fair share of revenue and improved public transportation.