For years, the city of Weyauwega paid the bill to keep street lights on in the town of Weyauwega.
When the Common Council met Monday, Feb. 25, it voted 3-2 to turn them off, as long as there is the option to turn them back on, after a six-month trial period.
Donna Allenstein, Amy DeSantis and Scott Rasmussen voted yes, while Bruce Brunner and Mike Kempf voted no. Jim Zandrow was absent.
“If we can’t do this, it has to come back to the council,” DeSantis said before the council voted.
Her comment was in reference to some council members wondering if a vote to turn the lights off would result in the light poles being pulled from the ground.
If that is the case, the council would want to discuss it again.
The council wants the lights to be turned off for a trial period to see if there are any complaints.
The lights, located south of the U.S. Highway 10 and County Trunk X interchange, were installed about 15 years ago, Mayor Don Morgan estimates.
That was before the U.S. Highway 10 overpass, he said.
There had been a number of accidents at the intersection, including fatalities.
A safety grant paid for those lights, as well as for a number of other lights to be installed in the area, Morgan said.
Initially, the town of Weyauwega paid the electric bill for the lights, he said.
At some point, the town decided it was not going to pay anymore, the mayor said.
The agreement between the city and town was described as a “gentleman’s agreement.”
After the town stopped paying the bill, the city paid it.
It amounted to about $500 per year.
“Last year, when we started the budget, we were asked to look at ways to save money,” Morgan said during Monday’s council meeting.
The mayor and DeSantis attended a meeting of the Weyauwega Town Board and asked the board if it was interested in taking over the lights.
“The town said it had no desire and suggested we shut them off,” Morgan told the council.
The matter was discussed at several meetings of the city’s Finance Committee.
At its Feb. 19 meeting, the committee voted to move the issue forward to the council for discussion and possible action, with no recommendation from the committee as to whether the city should continue to pay for the lighting.
“Is the city getting its money worth? Can you better spend that money?” Morgan said.
Members of the council disagreed on the issue.
Brunner said the lights are a way to welcome people into the city.
Kempf said it is the first impression people get of the city.
He asked if it is fair to talk about a $500 electric bill when the city spent $100,000 on two buildings last year, both of which are sitting bare.
Brunner and Kempf said the street lights in the town of Weyauwega are a safety factor.
Nick Gunderson, who served on the council in the past and is running unopposed this spring, said by that logic, the city should light the roads all the way from New London.
“Why are we spending money outside the city limits?” he asked. “It isn’t our responsbility to light the neighborhood for the township.”
Gunderson said if the city wants to spend money welcoming people to its city, it should spend downtown.
“That is the entrance to the city,” he said. “You can’t take on safety for everybody else.”
Allenstein said there is lighting on the city’s side of the U.S. Highway 10/County Trunk X intersection.
If complaints about the lights being turned off come from town residents, that information should go to the town of Weyauwega, and it should pay for the lights, she said.