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Letters to The Platteville Journal for Nov. 12
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On the Library Block

I attended the November meeting of the Platteville Library Board of Trustees and was concerned about what I heard during and after it.

The board (thus the Platteville Public Library) is being “pushed around by a few men in this town” in regards to the development of the “Library Block” and against the best interests of the library. After the meeting, I asked a few of the board members who these men were, and surprisingly they would not answer my question. When asking them specifically if it was the hotel developer or Steve’s Pizza, they said no but then mysteriously added that “they are not directly related to the project.”

The hotel will be twice the size and height of the library. It will dominate the block and the library will literally be in its shadow. Why then call it the “Library Block”? Board members felt that the aforementioned unnamed men are using the good name of the library to push this project through.

The latest proposed plan from the hotel developer reduced the size of the new library from 22,000 square feet (the minimum the library feels it needs to service Platteville today and in the near future) to 20,500 square feet. Meanwhile, the hotel is now projected to be nearly double the size of the library at 40,584 square feet. The hotel now wants to locate the library’s meeting room on the first floor along Main Street, a placement that would disrupt and damage all the plans that the library has been working on over the last few years for the new library. This is so the hotel can use the library’s large meeting room for its parties.

The developer has moved the library’s main entrance to Chestnut Street, where the city will have to give up at least three street-side parking spots so people can be dropped off and picked up at the door. This entry location is horrible due to being so close to the busy intersection of Chestnut and Main. If more than three cars want to drop off or pick up people, where are the additional cars to go? Hold up traffic at the stoplight? Illegally and dangerously park at the corner curb? Drive around and around the block until a spot opens up?

Why are we having the library stay on that block? Why not locate it in the Armory so it is closer to Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center, the middle school, and the high school so when they let out for the day, the students have someplace close by to go to that is educational and supervised by adults?

Why not locate it at the end of the future paved walking/bike trail that will be put in behind Menard’s and Walmart or, better yet, to the east of Goodwill? If to the east of Goodwill, it would be in a high-visibility location that people traveling south on Business 151 would see when taking the off-ramp and in clear view of Walmart shoppers. It could also have all the parking it would ever need. It could possibly even rename and promote itself as the Southwest Wisconsin Public Library “servicing the tri-county area.” It would surely help draw more to the new shopping district. And let us be honest about it. The library heavily services the poor (such as enabling them to freely use computers to be part of the Internet Age) and locating it next to Goodwill would enable the poor to not have to make an extra trip downtown to visit the library.

Something very fishy is going on. Who are these unnamed men? Why are they pushing the library around? How are they able to keep it from moving to a new location? Why are they not directly related to the project and yet still trying to manipulate it? Is the brand new library director really up to fighting for the library having just arrived on the scene at this crucial moment? And, finally, which side is the Common Council on or does it even care? Then again, does it even know there’s a problem?

Jack Decker

On the airport

I am an owner of a hangar at Platteville’s municipal airport. I was made aware on Oct. 23 that Platteville’s city government was considering annexing the airport into the city. I oppose this idea for the following reasons.

The main reason stated so far for this maneuver is increasing the tax revenue to the city by increasing my tax levy. I am not opposed to paying taxes as long as there is some demonstrated utility or service derived from them. As far as I am aware we will receive no additional city services for this increase; there will be no city sewer, no city water, no natural gas, or other common municipal services. In effect my building will be located in the Town of Platteville, but I will be paying the city property tax rate.

I already pay the city an additional land lease for the privilege to occupy the ground underneath it. If I fail to pay, the city can take my building. The lease is good for 40 years, at which time, if the city chooses, they can take my building.

The amount of money derived from this maneuver is akin to a rounding error in the city budget. The City of Platteville will need to pay the town $877.38 per year for five years as a phase-out of the revenue the town derives from taxes on the airport. If you increase this number by 21 percent — the difference in the property tax rates — it will rise to $1,061.63. 

The city will not receive this money until five years from now. The city budget in 2014 was $22,733,743; this accounts for 0.005% of the city budget.

The airport is nearly self-sustaining:
•    The airport derives revenue from sales of gasoline (jet fuel and airplane fuel) on the premises. If I have an airplane stored there, it is highly likely in theory and reality that the majority of the gasoline I buy will be from the airport.
•    The airport leases the surrounding land for tillage and crops. The last time closed bids were submitted the approximate revenue was $500 per acre.
•    The airport rents hangars. Before I constructed my hangar I paid $135 per month to the city for an unheated hangar of approximately 20 feet x 30 feet. There are 24 units.
•    The airport receives land lease revenue from the private hangars already. I paid a little north of $500 this year, and my land lease contract escalates over the term of the lease. Again, if I stop paying, the city will gain ownership of my building.
•    The airport receives about $150,000 per year from federal grant money to keep the taxiways, runways, lights and other facilities in good working order.

The city already runs and controls the airport. The Common Council president appoints the airport commissioners. They have sole authority by city statute over the airport. One of the council members is also a commission member.

The current organization/situation has been working for more than 40 years.

To those of you that think a municipality/town/county maintaining an airport is folly, or is a “playground” for those of us fortunate enough to own an airplane, let me make you aware of some of the benefits the citizenry peripherally enjoys.
Businesses and large employers care about having airport access. I know for a fact there are certain members of the UW–Platteville community who frequently commute in and out of the airport for university business.  My home town would not have the regional distribution facility for Walmart or a large manufacturing plant for Andersen windows if Menomonie did not have an airport. Kaiser Cleaning Co. specifically chose Platteville over Dubuque or other surrounding municipality’s airports to house its airplanes and facilities because of our well maintained easily accessible location.
When I interviewed for jobs, I specifically looked at the nearest airport facility, hangar availability, flight training, mechanics, and ease of access.

Ever wonder why Asiana Airlines crashed a perfectly good Boeing 777 in San Francisco on a sunny, almost windless day? There is no private ownership of airplanes in large parts of Southeast Asia. Most of these pilots have no experience “hand flying” an airplane. They are trained on automated systems for the most part. When the Instrument Landing System was down for service in San Francisco, disaster struck because the pilots were inexperienced at actually landing the plane without the computer.

A&A Aviation and Dubuque’s flight school use our airport intensively for flight training. The next time you take a commercial flight out of Madison or O’Hare Airport, think about the fact that that pilot likely had to gain at least 500 hours of experience in “a little airplane” before even being considered to be the co-pilot on a “small” regional jet. If we didn’t have these “small airports” we would cut the supply of new pilots for commercial shipping and travel off at the knees.  I have held a pilot’s license for five years now and I still only have 300 hours.

In closing: I see no reason to annex the airport from a utilitarian standpoint. It is generally well run and well maintained.  If this is just about the minuscule revenue (which it appears to be) that we will receive five years from now, annexation is just plane stupid.

Jason Klovning, M.D.

On the museums

With the budget being voted on and all the money that can be saved to help reduce property taxes, the current Common Council once again refuses to look at a task force recommendation to save property taxes.

I would like to see The Journal do a article about the Rollo Jamison and Mining museums and the amount of money the Platteville taxpayers are paying to support the museum operations. Once again the council is refusing to take fiscal responsibility and act on the task force recommendations:
•    Privatize the museum by converting it to the Greater Platteville Historical Society, a 501(c)3, with operations handled by a board of directors, made up of the combined museum and Jamison Museum Association’s boards.
•    Transfer the Rollo Jamison Trust Agreement to the historical society.
•    Combine the museum and Jamison Museum Association board to form the historical society’s board of directors.
•    Transfer museum staff from city employment to the historical society, giving the historical society the authority to keep them as employees or discontinue their positions. The historical society would have authority over all museum operations, including job descriptions, hours of operation, a supporting volunteer organization, Friends of the Museum, changing the museum’s names.
•    Implement grant funding to help support museum operations and decrease the city’s portion of the museum’s operating budget from its current $250,000 per year to $175,000 per year in 2015 and 2016, $150,000 in 2017, $125,000 in 2018, and $100,000 in 2019 and thereafter.
•    Lease the city-owned buildings that house the Rollo Jamison collection for $1 per year, with the historical society responsible for building maintenance and the city responsible for capital improvements. If the city chooses to relinquish its ownership of the museum buildings to the historical society, all HVAC items should be inspected and brought up to code and repaired before a transfer.
•    Increase the current room tax by ½ or 1 percent to help support funding museum operations. Since room tax money should be used to draw tourism to the area, what better way to use this money then to promote our historical museum?

If everyone would keep an open mind and read the recommendations, how can the council not implement the findings done by the task force? Platteville is the only municipality in the state of Wisconsin that supports 100-percent funding of a museum. A referendum was done, but to only help pay for moving the collection to Platteville not support its operations.

You may support the museum, as I do, but the tax payers of Platteville shouldn’t be funding 100 percent of its operations. The council needs to be called to task for ignoring a task force recommendation and not implementing the recommendations.

John Miller

The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters the Journal feels are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.