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Common Council votes ‘yes’ on boat landing project
In Boscobel
boat landing
The Boscobel Boat Landing can be a busy place when a large group of canoeists arrives Sunday after a weekend camping trip on the Lower Wisconsin River, like this group of 78 from the Ginger Creek Community Church in Aurora, Ill. They left Gotham Saturday morning on their 12th annual canoe trip here, camped on a sandbar near Port Andrew Saturday night, and arrived in Boscobel late Sunday morning.

BOSCOBEL - Boscobel’s boat landing upgrade got the final go-ahead from City Council this week. The project had stalled after inflation nearly doubled its budget, but Director of Public Works/City Engineer Mike Reynolds, in collaboration with the low-bidding contractor and engineer on the project, managed to whittle the costs down to about $75,000 over the initial planned budget of $521,000.

About a dozen members of the public attended the August 1 City Council meeting to observe the vote, but none opposed the project during public comments. 

“I think we need to get done,” former mayor Steve Wetter told the council. “If we’re going to be a tourist destination, we got to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done.”

Borrowing the cash

Most of the $1.4 million price tag for the project will be covered by several grants the city obtained through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The remainder, estimated at $594,937, will be paid out of a $1 million capital improvement loan the council approved earlier this year.

In Wisconsin, real estate tax rates, or levies, are tightly capped at the state level. The only exceptions are a voter referendum or a bank loan, either of which allows a municipality to exceed the levy limit and raise real estate taxes. 

In addition to the boat landing, Boscobel’s bank loan will be spent on essential services including the police budget, the street and library improvement projects, painting the pool, and new equipment like a leaf vac for fall cleanup and a lawn mower for city property. The loan also covered a portion of the city’s share of the fire department’s new pumper truck. 

That $1 million loan will increase real estate taxes in the city over the next five years, the period during which it must be repaid. How much it raises taxes on an individual property depends on its value. A home valued at $100,000 will see an increase of $167 per year for those five years. A little over half of that is earmarked for the boat landing project. 

The city may also be eligible for an additional grant that would cover half of the over-budget costs associated with the project. That grant application is due at the end of the year. 

Recreation destination?

The improvement project, which first surfaced in 2015 when the city bought the landing from Grant County for one dollar, is designed to make good on Boscobel’s promise to be the “recreation destination” of Wisconsin.

Included in the project are improvements to parking and sidewalks, reshaping the inlet to improve access for boats off the river, and new signs, lights, and other upgrades. 

Tourists aren’t the only ones who use the facility, however, and the improvements are also designed to increase access and usability for locals. In particular, the project will change the bank around the inlet from a steep scramble to a gentle walk, install an aerator, and add a wheel-chair accessible fishing deck to the far side of the inlet—all designed to allow non-boating fisher-folk access to the water. 

Daily user fees at the facility apply only to boaters who launch or disembark at the landing. All other uses are currently free, including parking, picnicking, and fishing. The terms of the DNR loan prevent increases in fees for the next five years. The current price is $5 per day, or $25 per year.

The cuts

Reynolds whittled the price down by eliminating some features, and by substituting city crews for some of the work at the site. 

The highest savings came from eliminating a pair of concrete fishing decks on the inlet. Instead, the city will build a wooden deck similar to the existing structure. More savings came from eliminating a plan to stabilize the banks with boulders and plants. Instead, native species plantings will be used to prevent erosion. In all, 31 changes to the original bid reduced the city’s cost by $563,000.

Roll call

Voting for the project were Steve Fritz, Stephanie Brown, Krissy Schneider, Roger Brown, and Brian Kendall. Voting against were Gary Kjos and Milt Cashman. Barb Bell was not present. 

Other business

The council also approved:

• A picnic license and street closing for the Corpus Christi Parish ICC Chicken BBQ.

• A pay request for $3,940 for tree stump removal by Klein Tree Service.