Jefferson County Board approves construction of highway shops

The Jefferson County Board on Tuesday decided that two new satellite Highway Department facilities in Lake Mills and Concord can begin construction.

The board voted on the initial proposed cost for the project at $1.2 million; however, the board was able to decrease this cost even further.

Tuesday’s approval of the project means that two new satellite facilities at a size of 12,500-square-foot buildings be built with the cost not exceeding $590,000 per site, which is less than the initial plan.

Initially, the proposal resulted in a tax rate of $.193 per $1,000 equalized value in 2016. Due to efforts by the board to reduce project costs resulted in a decrease in the 2016 tax rate. The tax rate for 2016 will now be $.188 per $1,000 equalized value.

Jefferson County currently has five satellite shops in Concord, Lake Mills, Ixonia, Palmyra and Waterloo.

The Waterloo shop is falling apart, has no salt storage, and is difficult to access because if its location. Ixonia location is unable to house new equipment because of its outdated structure. The Palmyra site has pretty much been abandoned because of similar issues as Waterloo and Ixonia sites.

It was recommended on Tuesday that the county demolish or sell the buildings and sell the land at these locations.

Building of the two new satellite shops will cut the response time down, Highway County Commissioner Bill Kern noted as the primary reason for construction.

The Lake Mills and Concord satellite future shops will allow better options for plow routes. Initial response time could be reduced as much as 30 to 45 minutes.

“This is the most important reason to build these satellite shops,” Kern said.

The new satellite shops will include: proper equipment storage, salt storage, appropriate and accessible site location, refueling tanks, unisex bathrooms, and emergency devices. The main location site will also include a heated side of the facility.

This proposal is part of a $17.22 million total construction project under the Jefferson County Highway Department.

The board also Tuesday authorized issuing $3.98 million in general obligation bonds to help fund the highway satellite shop project. The bonds have accumulated over a 20 year period.

Currently, it is prime-time to begin the building of the two new highway satellite shops as construction rates are down making municipalities have to pay a little less.

In other news, the board on Tuesday:

  • Proclaimed April 2015 as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.
  • Authorized the remnant parcel sale of county owned property along County Highway B in the Town of Aztalan to David Messmer as the land is no longer needed by the county.
  • Proclaimed March 13, 2015 as K-9 Veterans Day-calls upon residents to acknowledge, support and honor all of the military and police working dogs and K-9 Veterans of all our wars.

Council discusses budget effects for UW-W and city

The Whitewater Common Council on Tuesday approved through a unanimous vote to oppose Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts.

The proposed budget would reduce funding by 13 percent for the University of Wisconsin System, causing the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater over a 30 percent cut in General Purpose Revenue (GPR). UW-W would need to cover a gap of more than $6.4 million.

It is estimated as high as $8 million a year will be cut from the UW-W, Councilmember Lynn Binnie said.

The Council expressed their worry and concern that this budget cut would have on UW-W students and staff but also the community of Whitewater and the citizens who live there.

Walker’s proposed budget is not only an issue for UW-W but a community and city issue too because this resolution will be reached to the people, Councilmember Sarah Bregant said. “That is not money we are going to find and we will suffer quite a bit,” Bregant said.

The state of Wisconsin currently has an in-state tuition freeze. UW-W could make up this money loss if out-of-state tuition was raised by $5,000 per student a year, according to City Manager Cameron Clapper. However, Clapper seemed unconvinced that this be UW-W’s answer due to the fact that UW-W has a large student population attending from Illinois.

Clapper expressed his concern for Whitewater’s future with the council members and audience attendees Tuesday night. Walker’s proposed budget for the city of Whitewater would cause a “reduction in demand, causing a reduction of money coming into this community,” Clapper said. It will have a “severe and significant impact on this community,” Clapper said.

“Even though I have always been on Gov. Walker’s side I am more Whitewater than anything else,” Councilmember Stephanie Abbott said on discussion of proposed budget effects on UW-W.

In terms of K-12 schools, the budget would cause a $150 per pupil categorical aid cut which is equal to $290,000 for 2015-2016. The revenue limit freeze will be less in 2017 than it was in 2009. “From a school district perspective this is a drop in the quality of life,” Clapper said.

In addition, the budget would affect Whitewater’s parks, trials, and natural resources. Through the Stewardship Grant Moratorium Whitewater would face a loss of a land purchase resource.

The budget would entail counties to be in control of property assessments instead of cities or towns holding this control. Elimination of city property budget would also be enforced through the budget. After January 2016 there would be no contract renewals for the Local Government Property Insurance Fund.

There will be a negative impact on the Recycling Grant Program. The Recycling Grant Program will face a reduction of $4 million in 2015-2016. This $4 million will be restored in 2016-2017. The impact from the Recycling Grant Program on the city of Whitewater is unknown at this time; however, it is still known that it will have negative consequences.

Additional Council topics of discussion on Tuesday:

  • Strand Associates received approval to remove the ramp and stairs along with replacement of these items at the downtown armory to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Design and construction is estimated to cost $100,000.
  • Request by Police Chief and approval of Memorandum of Understanding between City of Whitewater and UW-W Police Services for use of the City’s Emergency Operations Center in the event of an emergency.
  • Approved Wisconsin Independent Network (WIN) for use of city conduit.
  • Three major areas: process by which we levy limit, shared revenue, and transportation aids, discussed in relation to Partnership for Prosperity.