Discussions about lighting city streets dominated a special meeting of the Clintonville city council Monday, Nov. 21,
The council passed the 2012 budget by an 8-2 vote.
Finance Committee Chairperson Mark Doornink began the meeting by thanking council members and city staff for their hard work throughout this year’s budget process. “It’s a lot of work, and I appreciate council members, committee members, and staff members working together to come up with ideas to create a balanced budget,” Doornink said. “I would like to end this meeting with a budget we can all agree upon – we can remove individual line items, edit them, and add items if need be – and hopefully agree on the rest.”
Alderperson Mike Hankins kicked off discussion on the budget with his motion to eliminate meeting pay for council members.
“We are asking a lot from other people,” Hankins said. “We should sacrifice along with them. I also don’t agree with the original intent of the meeting pay; it was instituted in hopes of adding incentive for committee members to attend meetings.”
Alderperson Steve Kettenhoven was one who disagreed with Hankins. “I respect Mike’s view, and I do agree the council should help; but we already took a vote on council members giving back a portion of their wages, and most did choose to do that. If we take away the $10 per meeting pay, we would be eliminating $300 per council member over the course of a year. That’s about 15 percent of our wages. For those who don’t want to take the meeting pay, they don’t have to; but I’d still like to see it kept as an option, and not eliminated completely.”
Alderperson Bill Zeinert seconded Hankins’ motion, but it was voted down.
Street lighting issues were discussed at length, as Alderperson Jeannie Schley stated her concern over the city’s decision to turn off 10 percent of its street lights in order to save $7,000.
“I still have issues with the lights being out,” she said. “I’m not happy with the budget as it is with the lights off.
“There are two office girls getting overtime- I have a problem with that,” she continued. “In the real world right now, overtime is frozen.”
City Administrator Lisa Kuss said overtime pay for those two employees amounts to about $2,100 per year. “Most of their overtime is due to their serving at committee meetings, which usually occur after hours. Elections also account for some of that overtime pay,” Kuss said.
“How many hours of overtime are we talking about?” asked Zeinert. “An amount of $2,100 per year comes out to about $175 per month. It doesn’t take many hours at time-and-a-half to get to that amount. I don’t’ think it’s out of line.”
Alderperson Gloria Dunlavy agreed with Schley.
“The $2,100 is minimal, yes; but so is the $7,000 for the lights,” she said in response to Zeinert’s comments. “We’ve got to get the lights back on.”
“We just voted down a measure to save $2,400 from our own expenses,” Hankins said. “Now we are asking staff to take the hit on this $2,100. The person arguing to do this hasn’t brought it up at any finance meetings, and they are a member of the finance committee. That’s odd.”
Resident Pam Skokan expressed her concerns over some city lights being turned off.
“I had my grill stolen off my deck since the lights have been turned off,” she said. “I’m a single mom with three kids. It’s very dark on my street, and I want the light to be turned back on because I feel unsafe.
“Turning off lights is a great idea, but we should have more lights on in residential areas,” Skokan continued. “We still need to save money. I feel that we do have too many lights, but we need to turn the lights on in residential areas.”
Doornink stated that more study is being conducted on the lighting issue, and citizen input is always welcome. “We can get the dark places lit again and turn off the lights that don’t need to be on,” he said.
Hankins asked Police Chief Terry Lorge if there has been an increase in crime since 10 percent of the city’s lights have been turned off.
“It’s too soon to tell,” Lorge said. “There was a house burglarized on 12th Street, but that house has been vacant for some time. There was another house on Garfield Avenue that was burglarized as well.”
Lorge said in a follow-up phone call on Dec. 5 that Skokan’s grill had been recovered and was returned to her. “We have several underage suspects who are being referred to juvenile court in relation to that case,” Lorge said.
The burglaries on 12th Street and Garfield Avenue remain under investigation, but Lorge said many items have been recovered and several suspects will face charges.
“The burglary on Garfield Avenue occurred in a well-lit area,” Lorge said. “We think that this was just a house that was targeted by the burglars, and didn’t have anything to do with lighting. The house that was burglarized on 12th Street was probably specifically targeted as well.”
Mayor Judy Magee said some lights that were originally turned off have been turned on again-mostly those illuminating dead-end streets.
City officials asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) if some lights on Main Street could be eliminated, such as those on the lamp posts in the downtown area or the new lights installed on Hwy. 45 near Fleet Farm. An email from DOT North Central Region Operations Supervisor Kelly Laabs on Nov. 23 informed the city that none of those lights can be eliminated.
“The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s North Central Region has reviewed your request pertaining to street lighting in Clintonville. We understand that the city has turned off 10 percent of the street lights that are not on highway 22/45 (Main Street) and you requested that we provide the DOT’s perspective as it relates to highway 22/45,” wrote Laabs.
“The design standards for DOT street lighting provide a consistent level of light for state highways with a balance between brightness and uniformity. When continuous lighting is installed on a highway, it is designed with overlapping patterns to provide uniform roadway lighting,” Laabs explained. “A violation of uniformity, such as would be achieved by turning off intermittent street lights, would lead to safety concerns on state highways.
“The DOT uses nationally recognized standards for street lighting. One of the standards used is the Roadway Lighting Design Guide from October 2005 published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. This document covers the aspects necessary in a master lighting plan and the techniques of lighting design,” Laabs continued. “The number of lights is based on the geometry of the roadway (i.e. width of the road, presence of a median, curves, etc.) There is no table that easily shows that value; that is engineered according to the specific requirements of the particular location. There are various software programs and other tools to assist with the engineering.”
Though the city is not able to turn off any lights on the state highways, other solutions are being pursued.
“The point of turning the lights back on is heard loud and clear,” Doornink said. “I agree that some should be off and remain off, but maybe we can get some turned back on.”
Zeinert made a motion to adopt the 2012 budget, and Hankins seconded the motion. It passed by an 8-2 vote, with Schley and Dunlavy voting no.
“I’d like to thank Mark and the finance committee for helping us reach a 0 percent increase in our budget this year-the budget hasn’t been raised,” said Magee. “Thanks everyone.”