Many Clintonville residents can expect new sidewalks by the end of summer, as the City Council voted unanimously to approve a preliminary resolution declaring intent to exercise special assessment powers.
In order for the city to assess the sidewalk replacement costs back to the property owners, some statutory requirements must first be met. The first step was to approve Resolution 2013-05, a preliminary resolution.
Public Works Manager Mike McCord explained that it has been a few years since the city did a sidewalk-only assessment project, and that the “worst of the worst” sidewalks across the whole city would be replaced. McCord’s department will soon begin marking sidewalks scheduled for replacement.
Alderpersons Bill Zeinert and Mike Hankins noted that the city has held off on sidewalk replacement due to the tough financial times that property owners are facing, while also stating that it’s good not to let the delay of sidewalk replacement go on too long.
City Administrator Lisa Kuss explained that one sidewalk square, or “cake”, will cost $80. A property owner’s assessment will depend on how many cakes are scheduled for replacement. The city will send out letters near the end of April to notify property owners of any assessment.
If the amount of the assessment is $150.99 or below, property owners will have one year to pay the balance at an interest rate of 3 percent over prime. If the assessment is between $151 and $300.99, property owners will have two years to pay the balance at an interest rate of 4 percent over prime. If the assessment is $301 and above, property owners will have five years to pay the balance at an interest rate of 5 percent over prime. When a loan is spread over a five year period, it is necessary to file a lien against the property which costs $20.
The council also discussed a request from Leo Daniels to adjust the amount of the snow removal invoice for the property he owns at 75 S. Clinton Avenue.
According to a memo from Kuss to the council, Daniels was contesting the bill he received from the city for snow and ice removal from the sidewalk adjacent to his rental property. The total bill came to $186.50.
“The bid price from Adam Kersten, who is contracted by the city to clear all sidewalks that are in violation, is $0.95 for each foot for snow cleared area and $0.40 for each foot that is sanded. In addition, we charge a $25 administrative fee,” read the memo. “Mr. Daniels has asked what employee hung the tag, and where it was hung, as his tenants told him they never got a tag.”
The memo went on to explain that the city keeps close records of the tags that are hung, with the top half hung at the property and the bottom half retained by the city. Street Department Operator Rob Arnold told Kuss he specifically remembered hanging a tag at Daniels’ property, on the west side of the building.
“I have no doubt it was left on the house,” continued Kuss in the memo. “Regardless, the ordinance requires the walk to be clear. The ordinance does not require a tag to be hung; we do that out of courtesy to give people one final reminder/warning. On Feb. 20 and 21 we hung 96 tags. Adam Kersten only had to go back and complete work on 19 properties. This shows that about 80 percent of the people who receive a door hanger go out and finish the job and do not receive a bill.”
The Finance and Insurance Committee recommended to council that Daniels’ request to have the amount of his bill adjusted be denied. The council voted unanimously to approve the committee’s recommendation, thus denying Daniels’ request.
Resident Dan Miller spoke to the council regarding Arty’s Fest, an event scheduled for this summer which the city plans to sponsor. The event is named after Arty’s Old Fashioned alcoholic beverages, which are made locally by a business that began in 2010.
“I am concerned about the potential liabilities for the city in hosting this event,” said Miller. “Is the city prepared to provide designated drivers?
“I’m also concerned about the message this is sending to the youth of our community when the city sponsors and event that is predicated upon this product,” added Miller. “Please give this some thought. These are things that need to be considered.”
Kuss said the city has no intention of making the event completely alcohol-centered.
“We will have other events such as volleyball, horseshoes, food demonstrations, and other fun attractions,” said Kuss. “We will work with the taxi service to provide rides that evening, and we hope to fill all of our local hotels and perhaps some in New London as well. We are looking at having busing available for a small fee so that people are not driving after drinking.
“Alcohol is served at all of our other events, and this one is no different,” Kuss said. “People will be carded as they enter the event, and we take all liability issues very seriously. We are planning to have two police officers at the event at all times.”
The council went on to approve the following:
• A 2012 Municipal Court Subsidy in the amount of $1,914.78, coming from the Contingency Fund;
• The second reading of Ordinance 1080-Residency Requirements. There is a possibility that the State of Wisconsin will change the city’s ability to limit such things, but until that happens, Kuss recommended that the city proceed with this ordinance. The city may need to change it to a response time radius rather than a mileage radius, but nothing is finalized yet; and
• The first reading of Ordinance 1081-Employee Discipline/Terminations. This would change back the suspension and termination responsibilities to the City Administrator. This was done in 2006 and a publication error caused this ordinance not to be enacted. Clintonville Police Department Captain Jim Beggs said he was concerned that this ordinance, if passed, could create conflict. For example, the police and fire departments are governed by the Police and Fire Commission. If employee discipline or termination were necessary for a member of either of those departments, the Commission would be responsible for any such action. Beggs said Ordinance 1081 would create confusion since it states that the City Administrator would be responsible for Employee Discipline/Termination, as well as the Police and Fire Commission.
“The police department is not in conflict with this new ordinance, but the language of the new ordinance is in conflict with the Police and Fire Commission,” said Beggs. “We’re not against this, by any means; the wording just creates confusion.”
City Attorney Tim Schmid explained that State Statutes, which govern the Police and Fire Commission, always trump city ordinances.
Hankins recommended that the council approve the ordinance and revise it later, if needed. “It has taken seven years to get this settled,” said Hankins. “I think we need to get it approved and then revise it if we need to.”
“The council should set the policy and then let the administrator and department heads execute it,” added Zeinert.
The council voted 7-3 in favor of approving the first reading of Ordinance 1081. Alderpersons Jeannie Schley, Gloria Dunlavy, and John Wilson voted nay.
The council adjourned into closed session to discuss litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved regarding two claims from airport tenants. The claims were attempts to recover losses incurred due to an electrical surge.
The city’s insurance company recommended that the council disallow both claims, since the city had no control over the damages incurred or the event that caused the surge.
After discussing the issue in closed session, the council returned to open session and voted unanimously to disallow both claims.
Mayor Judy Magee issued an official proclamation last week to recognize Sunshine Week, which highlights open government efforts dating back to the creation of the federal Constitution. Sunshine Week commemorates the anniversary of James Madison’s birth, who wrote that “consent of the governed” requires that he people be able to “arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”. Wisconsin open records laws, along with federal laws, allow for public access to government records and information.
The next regularly scheduled city council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at City Hall.