SHULLSBURG—Public input on the city garage project came a little too late.
Four concerned Shullsburg citizens attended the Shullsburg City Council meeting on Oct. 5 to get a chance to voice their concerns about a project they feel is being pushed through as quickly as possible.
At a previous meeting, the council voted to start the bidding process to build a new city garage to store the city’s maintenance equipment. The big push for the new structure stems from fire code violations and electrical issues making the current structure unsafe and difficult to repair at a reasonable cost. Mayor Tom Lethlean said the council plans to finance $560,000 of the $760,000 project.
Lethlean said the city has already spent $20,300 for the engineering firm and $1,500 on a prior site that the council looked at, all without any public input at open public meetings over the last four months.
“We’ve been through all of this and we’re just finalizing things at this point in time,” Lethlean said. “We have not had any public comment involved in the whole thing up to this point and now when we’re ready to sign the paperwork people… have expressed their displeasure.”
Although Lethlean said during the meeting that public comment is not allowed during the agenda item of the garage, he didn’t stop Ron Pole of Shullsburg from asking questions and voicing his concerns.
“The consent of the community in general is that people are tight with their finances and are already expected to cough up 2 percent [proposed tax levy increase],” Pole said. “It seems tough for some folks to swallow.”
Lethlean said the 2012 budget has not yet been set.
“New debt could be worked into the new budget,” Lethlean said. “That’s how budget laws are. This building would be new debt and it could be worked in the budget. Other increases have to follow the mandates that are set forth by the state.”
The impact to taxpayers was estimated to be $65 for a $100,000 home. Alderman Jim Paquette said the cost to homeowners is probably less than $65 a household.
“There aren’t many $100,000 houses in this county, so we’re talking about considerably less than $65,” Paquette said.
Alderman Dan Spillane said the council proposed to construct the building as a bare bones structure and add to it at a later time.
“If it [the project] doesn’t come in at the estimates that we’re expecting, we have the right to reject them at that time,” Lethlean said. “We will have acquisition of land costs prior to that and we would be stuck with that if the costs came in way higher. We could go back and try to cut it down and rebid it if we so choose.”
The city voted to have their financing for the project through Clare Bank. The bank offered a 10 year loan at 3.25 percent interest with a balloon payment.
Pole also questioned the safety of the location of the building on a corner of Co. O west of the city. Lethlean said the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour and he didn’t foresee that location as dangerous for city worker nor local residents using the highway.
“What I would like to see happen… is have people come to see the reasons why we need a new building,” Paquette said.
Paquette suggested the new building could save the city money in the long run by being more energy efficient.
Spillane said the current city garage is “basically almost condemned.”
The city has insurance money from previous hailstorm damage that can be used toward a new building.
“We can’t foresee putting $65,000 into that building,” Spillane said.
Spillane said if the current building was renovated, the state would mandate accessibility updates that could cost more than building new.
“We have done our homework,” Spillane said.
“It should have been done way before now,” Paquette said. “The people before us [the current council] should have been doing this.”
Paquette thanked the citizens for attending and voicing their concerns but asked where they were in the previous months.
“I sure appreciate someone coming and showing an interest because we have been wondering why aren’t these people wondering what is going on. Don’t they care?” Paquette said.
During public comment at the end of the meeting a letter from former mayor Tom Curran was read. The letter stated many disagreements with the project.