Wausaukee Board Approves Hike In Water, Sewer Rates
Property taxes for the Village of Wausaukee are going up hardly at all for 2014, but effective with the next billing cycle water rates will be hiked by 3 percent, the amount allowable without going through Wisconsin Public Service Commission, and sewer rates will be increased by 10 percent. The utilities have been operating in the red for quite some time. The decisions were made at board meetings on Wednesday, Nov. 20 and Tuesday, Nov. 26.
The increases are a fairly minimal amount, but at least were going in the right direction, Village President Hilbert Slug Radtke said during discussions at the Nov. 20 meeting, before the board unanimously approved the utility rate increases. He said if they do nothing, eventually they will end up without enough income to keep the systems running.
We need to get the water and sewer earning enough money to pay for themselves, agreed Trustee Brad Taylor as he moved to approve the increase.
After a brief budget hearing on Nov. 26, mainly notable by absence of the public, the board approved the village budget for 2014 as proposed, with a tax rate increase of 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Even trustee attendance was scant for the budget meeting. Present were Radtke, Clerk Toshia Ranallo, and trustees Rosie Figas, Deb Stumbris and Ann Hartnell. Trustees Taylor, Kyle Stumbris and Jason Figas were absent, and there were no members of the public on hand.
Radtke briefly reviewed the budget with the board and he and Finance committee Chair Rosie Figas fielded questions from a representative of the press. Some they suggested should be put to treasurer Sara Pullen, who was not present.
The total budget allows for revenues and expenses of $568,491, up 15.9% from last year. This includes $10,000 to be put into a reserve account for capital expenditures.
Property taxes are up only 1.12%, from $206,494 to $208,797, which is the maximum increase allowed by state law. This means a minimal rise in the mill rate, which is $7.73 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $773 to be paid on a $100,000 property for services provided by the village. This compares with $7.62 per $1,000 last year and $6.68 the year before. The 2014 tax bill to be received later this month also will include the village levy, along with levies to support the school district, NWTC, and the State of Wisconsin.
Village income from investments, licenses and permits, and miscellaneous revenues are all expected to be down.
The big difference is a 189.47% increase in money from other financing sources, which includes transfers from reserves and possibly borrowing from the villages line of credit. Here, the total allocated this year is $128,911, up 189.47% from last years $44,434. However, last years budget had a separate line item of $156,500 for transfers from reserves, and there was no allocation from that category for the 2014 budget. Discussion at a previous meeting indicated $82,000 will be transferred from reserve funds.
On the spending side, the allowance for general government was increased 7.24%, from $118,512 to $127,091. The amount budgeted for public works (street maintenance, grass cutting, snow removal, garbage collection, etc.) was increased 10.04%, from $152,033 to $167,284. The capital outlay budget was decreased from $207,700 to $35,200. There is no money being transferred from reserves. The budget for debt service is up 229.3%%, from $25,407 last year to $83,666 for 2014. This includes $1,000 interest and the balance for payments on principal.
The $14,220 allocated for community enrichment includes $4,870 for improvements to Evergreen Park, $3,300 to support the library, $2,650 for holiday expenses, and $2,000 for unspecified repairs and maintenance. There is $30,000 allocated for economic development for 2014.
Public safety expenses for fire department, rescue squad and hydrant rental total $100,820.
Garbage and recycling fees are budgeted at $41,895.
There is $25,000 budgeted for street improvements under capital expenditures, plus $5,200 for purchase of new fire hydrants, and $5,000 for gravel crushing. Snow removal is expected to cost $8,000, in addition to public works wages and purchase of vehicles and supplies.
The budget had been discussed in some detail along with other business at the regular monthly Village Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 20.
The village is under orders from the DNR to get cross connection inspections completed. These inspections certify that the necessary back flow valves are in place to prevent used water from filtering back into the villages fresh water supply. The DNR requires a report to be sent to them by the 10th of each month on the status of the inspections.
Utility Operator Pam Heritsch is doing the residential inspections, but said the commercial site inspections must be done by a licensed plumber or other qualified person. Ranallo said she had sent letters to the commercial utility customers informing them of the need to get the inspections done, and to submit verification to the village hall by 6 p.m., prior to the start of the meeting. Three have not submitted the verification.
The DNR says we have to have these done. Its not our choice, declared Rosie Figas.
The board decided Ranallo should send registered letters to the three accounts, giving them until Monday, Dec. 16 to get the verification in. If that is not done, water will be shut off on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Water customers with private wells are required to submit a current well permit or an abandonment report, and so far neither has been received for an empty dwelling at 206 Orlando Drive. Ranallo said she contacted the property owner, and learned Bank of America is in charge. She sent a packet informing them the village needs either a well permit or an abandonment report, and explaining the urgency of the issue. She said the village could be held in noncompliance if the reports are not submitted.
However, the water is shut off already, so there is no danger of cross contamination. Radtke commented the DNR issued the well permit in the first place, so its their well. He suggested sending a copy of the bank correspondence to Wendy Anderson of the DNR to show that they are trying.
The Nov. 20 meeting opened with a half-hour presentation by Bill Koehne of Packerland Websites, Abrams, that resulted in unanimous decision to have his firm create a website for the village. The new site, villageofwausaukee.com, will have links to Wausaukee Recreation Association, Marinette County, Wausaukee School District, the library, and possibly other sites.
Clerk Ranallo has been assigned as primary contact for decisions and approvals of graphics and text, with input from board members. Cost will be $1,950 to set up the site, plus $300 to $400 for writing the page information and $28 a month to host. Hartnell said he does nice user friendly sites. Other offers had been in the $3,000 to $4,000 range to design, and $50 a month to host.
Clerk Ranallo commented, The price is right, noting other providers quoted more than twice as much. Look at his proposal. I dont think youre going to beat it, she declared. She said Treasurer Pullen had gone through some hoops just trying to get a domain name, and he will do it for them as part of the package. Koehne said if the information and approvals he needs are provided promptly he can have the site up and running by the end of the year.
Trustee Jason Figas noted they had included money for a website in the 2014 budget and Clerk Ranallo suggested they also had talked about not spending the $1,800 for an ad in the Marinette County Visitors Guide and could also put that money toward the site.
She also suggested they consider the time that will be saved in the clerk/treasurers office. When people call for ordinances or other information she will be able to direct them to the site, where they can read it on their own.
We certainly know people come in for lots of information they could get on a web site, commented Radtke.
Village ordinances will be posted on-line, as will forms for things like building permits and bartender license applications. People will be able to pay water and sewer bills on-line. Ranallo noted there is no charge for using a debit card, whether in the office or on the web, but if the payee uses a credit card the service provider charges an additional $1.50.
Id like for us to get it started and if at all possible, get it running before the end of the year, declared Rosie Figas.
I think the price is reasonable, and I think its about time, agreed Hartnell.
Ranallo suggested discussing details at the Smart Growth meeting on Monday, Nov. 25, but Radtke suggested saving the cost of another meeting and just getting it done.
Hartnell moved to have Packerland Websites make a web page and e-mail account, Jason Figas promptly seconded, and everyone present voted in favor.
Wonderful! declared Ranallo. At the Nov. 25 meeting the board discussed some details, and officially named Ranallo as the contact person for making decisions and approvals of graphics and text.
Moving on to other business, the board reviewed street and utility reports.
Taylor asked what they were doing about the stray cat problem. Public Works Director Darryl Schmidt said hes been giving them away to anybody who wants one, but Im running out of farmers. He said the animal shelter in Menominee doesnt want them any more. People feel sorry for them and feed them, and they just keep having more cats...They multiply really, really fast!
Radtke led off a discussion on problems with the furnace at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which he felt are mainly caused by rust resulting from dampness and lack of air circulation.
Sunday night the power went out, and alarms went off with lots of bells and whistles, Radtke said. Two employees responded and got the problem fixed, temporarily. He reported that earlier on the day of the board meeting the generator was fixed.
Radtke reported when the furnace at the wastewater treatment plant went down he learned the cause was a broken igniter, and the repair would cost $1,600. A new furnace would cost $10,000, so I said fix it, Radtke told the board. There was general agreement with that decision, along with discussion on how to avoid similar problems in the future.
Radtke said one suggestion was to install ceiling-mounted Modine heaters as backup in case the furnace fails again, or obtain three portables and store them off-site in a less corrosive environment, for use if and when they are needed.
Hartnell suggested putting a furnace outside the main chlorine room and pipe the heat in.
Advice will be sought from a few sources before a decision is made.
At 5 p.m. we thought the generator was okay, but then the power went out again, Assistant Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Michelle Pilkington said. They were going to be working on the problems again that night, and hoped to get done in the 2 1/2 hours for which she could pump down the sediment basin.
Heritsch turned in a detailed utility maintenance schedule as requested at the last board meeting. Figas noted a similar schedule had been requested from Schmidt, but was told he hadnt gotten to it yet.
The board had a long discussion on records for the utility department. There are two files, and discussion indicated Heritsch keeps one under lock and key. I sign my name to it, and it has to stay safe, she declared to a question from Kyle Stumbris. Weve had papers disappear...
There are records Michelle needs to do that are kept in that cabinet, Ranallo declared. Heritsch said she told Pilkington she can have a key, but apparently there is currently only one key.
Ranallo said all the other village records are backed up off site by UES each night, and said the utility records too should be duplicated somewhere else. She was asked to look into getting a similar system set up by UES for the water and sewer utilities.
Heritsch said if UES does an on-line backup, that would be wonderful.
Ranallo said she, as clerk, is custodian of village records, and Pullen, as treasurer, is custodian of finances.
Heritsch said there are records that are done every day, and there is only one copy of those.
Pilkington felt after seven months on the job she should be able to do the reports.
Heritsch told her she could not do the reports without a license, but agreed that now that Pilkington is licensed she should be allowed to do them.
Another problem was determining procedures for weekend checks of the utilities and who is to do them.
Radtke said on a recent weekend two employees had come in to do the checks, a task assigned to one person. Heritsch explained there had been a mixup, and we have a calendar now. Weekend checks are done on a somewhat rotating basis by Heritsch, Schmidt and Pilkington.
Ranallo suggested if they need to trade weekends they should talk to each other, and then report to Radtke if there is a change in the calendar so he and the board know in advance who is responsible for working on any given weekend.
Pilkington questioned the necessity for doing weekend checks at all, since there are alarm systems to alert them if things go wrong. We could be there in the morning and everything is fine, but if it shuts down in the afternoon we only know because of the alarms and we have to come back.
Radtke said the DNR requires them to do routine weekend checks. Heritsch said that is because they do not have an alarm for chlorine in the system.
Id argue with the DNR if we have to - by law - do weekend checks, Pilkington declared. Youre spending a lot of money that you dont have to. Acknowledging that it is her choice to live 40 miles from the village, Pilkington said after paying travel expenses she makes an extra $4 for her weekend to do the checks.
I understand your frustration, but this is not something you didnt know when you took the job, Jason Figas told her.
Heritsch said she had talked to Anderson of the DNR and Anderson sent an e-mail confirming the weekend checks must be done.
Pilkington said also the checks are supposed to be done consistently at the same time each day, and that is not being done.
Radtke suggested they put the weekend checks on the agenda for the meeting that already had been scheduled for the morning of Monday, Nov. 25, and the board agreed.
However, that meeting had already been going on for four hours when the item came up on the agenda and the board decided to table it to a future meeting.
Also tabled was consideration of a maintenance agreement proposal from Engebos for bi-annual furnace cleaning at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Discussion at the Nov. 20 meeting was that regularly cleaning the furnace might eliminate some of the rust problems. Other solutions suggested were fans and improved ventilation.
Pullen reported the shared revenue check for $114,961.73 had been received from the state earlier that day.
She noted the 2013 budget had a lot of money set aside for a lot of things that did not get done, and asked how to handle it. She noted there had been $10,500 budgeted to buy a new truck, but instead the box on the old one had been painted and repaired, for $2,700, and asked how to handle the difference. It was decided she should take the $2,700 from the equipment fund, and add the remainder to the money market account for equipment.
Ranallo commented any changes in how money is spent needs to be recorded in meeting minutes so the auditors can track what has been done.
Our transfer from reserves is monstrous, Pullen declared, referring to $82,866 being taken from the money market to pay off a line of credit loan from Bank North. Those issues were addressed in the budget that was passed at the Nov. 26 meeting.
The issue of overnight parking on village streets during snow plowing season drew considerable discussion, and included a suggestion to simply plow in any vehicles left in the streets when the plows go by. The feasibility of placing signs at entrances to the village was discussed, but it was discarded due to lack of enforcement ability. It was decided to place an ad in the paper and post notices in the post office and banks advising residents that overnight parking on streets is prohibited from Dec. 15 to April 1 each year.
They will ask Sheriff Jerry Sauve if the Marinette County Sheriffs Department will ticket illegally parked vehicles if the streets are properly signed. The legal firm that serves as village ordinance advisor also will be contacted for advice. Currently Ranallo said signs must be posted in each block if the ordinance is to be enforced.
The board decided since the utility pipes crossing the new Hwy. 141 bridge will be insulated, the utility pole there is no longer needed and WPS will be asked to remove it.
After some discussion the board agreed Taylors grandmother, Betty Edlebeck, is entitled to credit on her sewer bill for charges resulting from a leaky basement water faucet that drained into a floor drain and not the village sewer system. However, the credit is given only once in a life time, and she would be credited with only $98.91.
To meet the deadline for inclusion in the Marinette County Tourist Guide Calendar of events, the board set Saturday, July 5 as the date for the 2014 Independence Day celebration, and noted that St. Augustine Catholic Church will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Aug. 25.
The board agreed unanimously to proceed with submission of a Dam Safety Grant application, provided Coleman Engineering will provide cost estimates at no charge. The dam itself needs to be repaired, and rip rap is needed to prevent further erosion of the shoreline. Hartnell is to talk with John LeFebvre of the Marinette County Land Information office on requirements for dam repairs, and grant assistance that may be available.
At the conclusion of regular business the board went into closed executive session to discuss a personnel issue, at the request of Ranallo. There was no action taken as a result of that meeting.
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