County budget: road projects proposed

Public works projects, safety improvements and human services continue to top the list of county budget priorities for this coming year.

Dane County executive Joe Parisi released his 2015 executive budget last Wednesday, with an emphasis on communication systems, road projects, personnel costs and county lands and lakes.

His proposed budget will be reviewed by county committees and eventually the full County Board. The budget is usually adopted by Thanksgiving, with discussions slated for this month.

Locally, specific projects include additional money for road projects and recreation improvements.

The proposed budget includes:

• An additional $1.5 million for the first phase of the Lower Yahara Trail

• $35,000 for the County Hwy. AB Yahara River bridge design project in the Town of Dunn

• $150,000 for the County Hwy. N Riley bridge design project in the Town of Dunkirk

Taxpayer impact


Utility issues water warning

While it’s not known yet if any water was contaminated, Stoughton Utilities issued a public statement Friday saying they failed to check drinking water  for coliform bacteria as required during the months of July, August and September.

“Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether or not your drinking water meets health standards,” read the statement. “(We) cannot be sure of the quality of your drinking water during that time.”

Testing of the water supply on Oct. 3 showed safe results.

According to the statement, no special precautions are needed at this time, “however, it is important to remember that the quality of your drinking water is not known at this time.” The tests were missed due to “misinterpreted” monitoring assignments, which have now been placed on a 12-month electronic calendar available to all operators.


Feedback sought on parks plan

Map courtesy City of Stoughton. The city’s 2014 Parks and Open Space Plan is ready for public comment and review. The plan calls for six park expansions or new sites, as well as trails connecting to existing facilities. The city’s park commission will hold a public hearing Oct. 21.

The city is in the midst of updating its park plan for the next five years and is looking for residents’ feedback to help shape future needs for outdoor spaces.

A draft of the plan is available online, parks and recreation director Tom Lynch said, and feedback can be done through an online survey. If a face-to-face feedback is preferred, a public hearing on the plan is slated for later this month.

Lynch has been updating the city’s plan so that the department and city can continue to be eligible for state and federal grants. The plan needs to be updated at least every five years for some grants.

Not much has changed in the past few years, Lynch said, so the plan is relatively unchanged, as well.

With little residential growth, the need for more park space has been low. But the city is still looking at six sites for future park expansion:


Split council OKs TIF project plan

The Common Council took another step forward last week in making the proposed Kettle Park West (KPW) development a reality.

In what’s become a familiar pattern, a divided council voted 7-5 to authorize the city to prepare a tax-increment finance (TIF) project plan for the Wal-Mart-anchored commercial development on the city’s west side.

The project plan will determine the boundaries of a future TIF district and analyze its economic feasibility.

It will be prepared by Springsted Incorporated and include an analysis of the city’s ability to repay future debt service using tax increment revenues and to recover any proposed development incentives. Springsted will also evaluate various forms of development assistance incentives and identify the financial risk to the city under different TIF options.


Council picks Boersma as Dist. 1 alder

A realtor and part-time social worker is the city’s newest representative on the Common Council.

The council last week elected Sid Boersma as the new District 1 alder. He succeeds David Kneebone, who died suddenly in August.

Boersma defeated the other candidate for the seat, Gregory Lee, in a 9-2 vote.

Alds. Sonny Swangstu, Tim Swadley, Ron Christianson, Michael Engelberger, Tom Selsor, Paul Lawrence, Pat O’Connor, Greg Jenson and Eric Hohol voted for Boersma, while Tom Majewski and Tricia Suess backed Lee.

Boersma will serve until April 2015, when the seat will be up for election. He told the council prior to last Tuesday’s vote that he’s unsure whether he’ll run in April.

In responding to questions posed by the council, Boersma said the most important issue facing the city is “the rift” caused by the proposed Kettle Park West development, with a Wal-Mart supercenter as its anchor tenant.  


Q&A with Mary Bujold

As with virtually everything else related to the proposed Kettle Park West development, the economic impact analysis conducted by a Minneapolis-based research firm generated a good deal of controversy.

KPW supporters point to the many positives listed in the report, while detractors note the negatives and the fact that the analysis was conducted without all of the information that Maxfield Research had requested.

Maxfield president Mary Bujold discussed the report’s findings on Sept. 11 at a meeting with city officials.

Last week, she talked with the Courier Hub via telephone from Minneapolis about the analysis.


Officials question impact analysis

On the positive side, a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the proposed Kettle Park West development would likely generate $12 million annually in new business sales and create 159 new jobs.

On the negative side, it would likely draw spending from existing businesses in Stoughton, particularly in such areas as groceries, hardware, electronics, pharmacy and personal care products.

Those are some basic conclusions contained in a long-awaited economic impact analysis of how a new commercial center could affect local business here.

The Common Council commissioned the study as required in the city’s so-called Big Box ordinance. The study was conducted over a six-to-eight week period this summer by Maxfield Research Inc., based in Minneapolis.


City faces another lean budget

While not as dire as in the past few years, Stoughton’s city budget for next year is still looking extremely lean.

The city’s cost for services continues to increase every year, yet the amount the city can increase its property tax levy is tied to its net new construction.

That means difficult decisions this year as city leaders spend the next few weeks working out what to cut and what to keep in the budget.

While growth is up, it’s still under 1 percent. And while the structural deficit – the difference between the amount requested by department heads and the amount available to spend – is half of last year’s, it’s still more than $300,000.

Beginning Tuesday, the Finance committee will discuss reports from the citizen-and-official Results Teams, which met this summer to prioritize services, and the city’s budget gap. It will lead to a Sept. 29 Town Hall meeting for citizens to learn more about the budget and express ideas.


Homicide charges in July heroin death

A Stoughton man could face more than 40 years in prison for his alleged role in the overdose death of another man in July.

Robbert S. Knipfer, 26, was charged with first degree reckless homicide Sept. 10, online court records show. Joseph B. Mayweathers, 24, of Madison, also faces the same charge for allegedly selling the drug to Knipfer.

Knipfer allegedly sold heroin to Dylan R. Nelson on July 4, his 25th birthday, according to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court. Nelson had been with family during the day, but allegedly purchased $40 worth of heroin in the afternoon from Knipfer. Nelson took the drug alone and was found dead at his grandmother’s home. Police later arrested Knipfer after staking out the apartment where the drug was purchased. Mayweathers was arrested a few weeks later in Madison.


Business park TID expansion goes to council

Photo by Jim Ferolie/Special thanks to Oliver Himsel. Business Park North had filled two years ago with the addition of Nelson Global, but a plan to create a new tax-increment financing district could provide room to grow into the Moe property to the north (bottom of the photo).

The City of Stoughton is moving forward with a plan to create a new tax-increment financing district as part of an expanded Business Park North.

Commission members Monday voted to forward the plan to the Common Council despite one concern from a business owner in the current business park. The city wants to move the plan forward in order to create the district this year in case glass manufacturer Guardian Interior Glass decides to build this year.

The new TIF district (or TID) – a financing tool used by municipalities to encourage development and improve infrastructure  – would not be used to pay for Guardian’s expenses to build here, city finance director Laurie Sullivan said, but would allow the city to use the increase tax revenue from Guardian to expand the park further on about 35 acres to the north.