Washburn City Council meets June 10 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss several matters I hope people will become informed about, and think what they’d like to see happen.
There will be a presentation by the Washburn Girl Scouts Troop with discussion and perhaps action. The Girl Scouts met previously with me to tell me about the poor condition of the sidewalks from City Hall up to the library. They have documented this in photos with them on their bikes to show the potential dangers for falls and injury. When I met with them I explained the process that would have to occur for repairs to happen. As young citizens, this is something of a civics lesson, but without a doubt, this work needs to get done. Finding funds will be the issue.
Next there is a presentation by Chequamegon Climate Change Lobby seeking City Council’s support of a resolution in favor of House Resolution 763 dealing with the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This presentation will explain the issues involved.
Then council will consider a presentation by Aventure Vivante, a group that is making a proposal on the Broke Down Palace building. They will be explaining the details of their offer and seeking approval. City Council perhaps will take up negotiation strategies later in closed session. We certainly want to see the building developed and in private hands, but we need to be certain that the developers can do what they hope to do. It is not a simple offer; the group seeks considerable monetary concessions from the city.
There will be a reconsideration of the solar project for the treatment plant that was rejected at the last meeting. The cost of the project and our city administrator’s strong objections combined to result in a split decision against the project. Now the contractor has lowered the price and the financial part of the plan does result in a much better return on investment, but there may be other elements of operation and impact that could be considered.
Our city administrator has determined significant restructuring of our financial priorities must occur to keep within our budget. The Personnel/Finance Committee met and through long and difficult discussion, a compromise was reached and will be presented to City Council for its action. The city had an expensive, unexpected water line break at the marina that cost much more to repair than first thought. In a pleasant surprise, the city has insurance that will cover a good portion of the cost. The city has also had a larger-than-usual number of water breaks in other parts of the city. Concern is that we are just halfway through our budget year. Hard choices will have to be made. Upgrades to the treatment plant are costly but will allow a fast return on investment.
An item that will garner a lot of interest is how to go forward with ideas on the Omaha Street Property. The city administrator, Council President Karen Spears-Novachek and I have a series of meetings to suggest so that the public can have great input in the ideas that may come about. These meetings or community forums are primarily the idea of Spears-Novachek with input from the city administrator and me. There would be three meetings with the first being an informational session laying out the background with previous ideas, plans and fiscal considerations presented.
The second would be a facilitated discussion to gather ideas on how best to develop the property. The third would be a facilitated session to identify consensus recommendations for City Council. I commend Spears-Novachek on her determination to move this process forward and the good plan she has developed.
Somewhat related to this is an item brought forward by Council Member Tom Neimes to discuss the city hiring a business recruiter. The city administrator has written a two-page memo laying out the situation. While such a recruiter may sound like a good idea, there are many things that have to be thought of before we spend money to hire one. One big item is that we do not have any money in our budget to do this. Another is that we don’t know what sort of business we want here. In the last couple of years the city has turned down two large development projects. A recruiter will want to know what it is we seek. We don’t have a clear answer to that right now as far as I can determine.
Another agenda item is the appointment process for the city weed commissioner. Now, before you get an idea we have an office with tapestries, incense burning, hookahs, and nonstop bootleg Grateful Dead concert tapes playing, I must correct your visions (or hopes). This is an office required by state statute. We are only making changes to the term of office. And to clear up notions, the weed commissioner is on staff to take care of any noxious weeds growing in the city. Typically the public works director holds this office.
If you have any questions, please contact me at any time. I’d like to hear from you. These items will have great impact on the future of the city. Make your voice heard.
Richard Avol is mayor of Washburn.