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Boscobel raises fees

Residents in the City of Boscobel will pay a little more to remodel their home, sell cigarettes, or host a potluck at the Blaine Gym. Fees for these and a variety of other services offered by the city have been revised for 2024.

The City Council approved the rate increases at their March 4 meeting—but held off on changes to the Parks and Recreation department, including swimming pool fees.

Most of the rate hikes are incremental. Rental of the Blaine Gym, for example, increased from $40 to $50 with no food, and from $50 to $60 with food.

Construction permits The most dramatic changes come under the building and zoning categories.

Under the old system, permits for remodeling projects were flat fees that ranged from $10 for a carport to $50 for a room addition. Going forward, the fee for room additions or remodeling projects will be calculated at 25 cents per square foot with a minimum of $125.

The city also added a new fee for all residential construction and additions—a $60 “erosion control” fee to prevent soil loss around the structure.

In the zoning category, fees to apply for a conditional use permit or a zoning variance appeal jumped significantly. The old fees were $100 and $150 respectively, plus the cost of publishing the request to the public. The new fees are $600, which includes the cost of publishing.

City Administrator Patricia Smith explained at the meeting that the old fees had been set before the city began to contract for zoning and building inspections services with an outside firm, General Engineering Company. The changes cover the actual cost to the city of the services, she said.

“What we found was that we we’re a bit upside down, so we’re right sizing ourselves with what we’re getting charged from them,” she told the council.

Pool discussion tabled

Smith’s proposal to the council included an increase in the fees for summer parks and recreation programs, including pool fees. The proposal also eliminated the discount for city residents.

Mike Reynolds, Boscobel’s City Engineer/Director of Public Works, who also sits on the city’s Park Commission, pushed back against the change.

The recommendation to eliminate the resident discount came not from the commission, but from city staff who administer the programs, according to Smith. Reynolds said that decision should rest with the commission.

“The park board has expressed numerous times that we do think there’s a reason for non-resident fees. Fennimore has them, Muscoda has them, Richland Center has them,” Reynolds said. “As a property owner, I’m paying probably $100 per year just for the parks and the swimming pool.”

The council agreed to table action on the parks and recreation fees until hearing a recommendation from the commission.

Police cruiser approved

Police Chief Travis Dregne presented the council with three bids for a new Dodge Durango to replace an aging Ford Explorer used by the department.

Bids for 2024 vehicles came in from Les Mack dealership in Lancaster ($40,241) and the Fillback dealership in Boscobel ($41,824). A third bid came from the Kunes dealership in Barneveld for a 2023 model ($41,219).

While the prices were all within a whisker, delivery time was not. The 2024 vehicles would take 8 to 20 weeks to arrive, according to Dregne. The 2023 model could come in a couple of weeks.

“I respect whichever route the council wants to go. Either way, we’ll have a squad car and I’m sure it’ll be a great car,” Dregne said. “But I think it’s worth considering how much money we’re going to dump into the one we got in the time we’re waiting for the new one.”

Alders Roger Brown and Barb Bell spoke against purchasing the 2023 vehicle, citing both the lower value of last year’s model and the dealer’s distance from Boscobel.

“Myself, I would rather buy local than out of town, especially if you’re going to get one a year older than what they’re offering here,” Bell said. “You’re going to have it serviced here anyway because why go all the way to Barneveld? I’d rather see us buy it locally.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the Fillback bid.

Abatement avoided

Chief Dregne reported that cleanup at the Gene Freymiller property had progressed rapidly and had precluded the city sending in crews to “abate” the property.

The council had directed Dregne to move forward with abatement at its February 5 meeting.

Instead, Freymiller and a group of friends managed the cleanup themselves.

“He’s done a fantastic job. They’ve been working their butts off over there,” Dregne told the council. “I got there at 7 a.m. and I told him I’d be back at 9 a.m. to assess what equipment and manpower we needed. By the time I got back, he had 99 percent of the stuff taken care of.”

It’s not the first time that the council has warned Freymiller about his properties in the city limits, but Dregne is hopeful it will be the last.

“The nice thing in this instance is a lot of people have come to help him out,” Dregne said. “I’m hoping he has a network now that’s going to help stay on top of it—so we don’t have to.”

Other business

The council also took up additional matters, including:

• Asking the personnel committee to review recent changes to the city’s vacation policy to pro-rate vacation days from hire date to the end of their first year.

• Approved alcoholic beverage operator’s licenses for Ashley Vale and Ryan Wright at Double K’s, and a change in liquor license officer at Kwik Trip.

• Approved the part-time hire of Vicky Grimesey for 12 hours per month at $16 an hour to assist City Hall staff.

Daylight savings begins this weekend

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour this Saturday evening. Daylight savings time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, March 10.