Fees cover Gold Cross, dam repair costs
By Scott Bellile
Hortonville residents will see increases in their bills next year as the village joins an ambulance consortium and borrows money for two large projects.
The Hortonville Village Board approved billing residents for Gold Cross Ambulance Service and for a loan for the dam repair and a new firetruck on Thursday, Nov. 19.
A proposed increase to the sewer rate was backed by the board and will be brought forward at a public hearing in December.
Each household and business will pay $12.50 to support Gold Cross Ambulance Service. This will appear on December’s property tax as an additional user fee, similar to the way the village lists trash pickup.
The fee is a result of the village voting to join the Gold Cross Ambulance Service consortium. The village up to this point did not pay Gold Cross Ambulance for the paramedic services provided to residents, whereas surrounding small communities do pay. Appleton does not pay because its high call volume generates enough operating revenue for Gold Cross.
A Gold Cross spokesperson told the village board at a previous meeting that Hortonville would not lose service if it didn’t join the consortium. But board members at Thursday’s meeting worried response times could slow down if Hortonville didn’t pay.
“At the end of day we can sit and discuss all we want how much it sucks and how much we don’t want to do it, but I’m not willing to put villagers in any kind of a risk that would come by not joining,” trustee Kelly Schleif said.
The board voted 4-2 to join the consortium, with Dawn Vollbrecht and Al Habeck against, and Tori Mann absent. Then the board unanimously approved the $12.50 service fee.
Dam, fire truck loan
A $150,000 home will pay an additional $132 on the December property tax bill. This is to help the village pay off a five-year loan the village needs to take out for this year’s Black Otter Lake Dam repair and a new fire truck purchase.
The fee is proportional to any home value. For example, a $75,000 home will pay $66, half of what a $150,000 home will pay.
The village unanimously approved 6-0 to take out a five-year loan of $732,500 ($444,000 for the dam and $288,500 for the fire truck) at an interest rate of 2.75 percent. After interest the village will pay about $785,000, Village Clerk-Treasurer Lynne Mischker said.
Mischker said the new fire truck is necessary because in the case of a fire, the state requires the first fire truck dispatched to the scene be under a certain number of years old.
Work on Black Otter Lake Dam was required because the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources gave the dam a High Hazard rating that put area homes in danger.
The average quarterly sewer bill could increase 34 percent next year. Bills would vary by household based on water usage, but the average home uses 10,800 gallons of water quarterly and would see an increase of $55. The proposed fee hasn’t been approved yet.
This fee increase would generate revenue because the village’s wastewater facilities are not meeting a mandate to generate 25 percent in annual revenue beyond operating costs and debt payments.
In addition, the revenue would cover loan payments for a future sewer main replacement.
A public hearing will take place Dec. 17 to allow residents to voice their opinions on the proposed sewer rate increase. A time was not set.
Mischker said the increases are necessary to pay off loans, meet state requirements and stay in good standing with the companies that hold the village’s bonds. The rate increases were not taken lightly, she added.
Almost everyone involved in the inner workings of the village is a Hortonville resident and will pay along with residents, Mischker said, with the exception of new village administrator Diane Wessel. Wessel is working on selling the home she lived in during her previous job in Lincoln County so she can permanently move to the area.
Vollbrecht hesitated to vote in favor of the loan for the dam and fire truck during the meeting.
“I might have to get a second job,” Vollbrecht said.
During the portion of the board meeting where members could suggest topics for future discussion, trustee Peter Olk urged the board to find ideas on how to generate revenue without piling more expenses onto taxpayers.
“Now that we’ve increased our expenses, there’s gotta be a way, something that we can do as a village to create some other forms of revenue. I’d like everybody to think about that,” Olk said.