Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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City may borrow for projects

by Lisa Seiser

January 06, 2011

It appears as though the city of Lake Geneva may borrow up to $3.2 million to fund capital improvement projects during the next three years.

Council president Todd Krause asked aldermen during Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting to voice their opinion about a possible bonding and a two-page list of proposed capital projects. A majority of aldermen were in favor of borrowing, but which items, projects and a total still need to be discussed.

The capital improvement list, which was discussed during a nearly five-hour meeting last month, includes a new aerial ladder fire truck, police radios, street repair work, a plow truck and large mower. Those are some of the higher priced items. A new fire truck is expected to cost about $1 million, as is the street repair program over the three-year time span.

Less pricey items include protective firefighting gear, sirens for emergency government, software for municipal court, lighting and carpeting for the library, sidewalk grinding and truck replacements. The most capital improvement items are listed under the public works department requests.

Krause said with tight operating budgets, this is one of the only ways to pay for capital projects. He said he doesn't like to borrow money, but the city's streets and infrastructure have been ignored for too long.

"That would be a primary focus for me," Krause said of the street projects. "I don't know what's a wish list item and what's not. We need to borrow, but dissect it and look at what we need."

Most of his fellow aldermen agreed.

Aldermen Don Tolar, Tom Hartz, Bill Mott, Frank Marsala and Ellyn Kehoe said they were in favor of borrowing, but not sure about the total, yet. According to figures presented by City Administrator Dennis Jordan, the expected interest rate will probably be between 3.25 and 3.75 percent.

"I hate borrowing, but these are projects we need to do," Marsala said.

Mott, Hartz and Tolar said they are in favor of borrowing, but a close analysis of the list must be made to determine which spending is necessary.

"I can see borrowing some," Tolar said.

"I am in favor of borrowing, but the individual items need to be discussed and prioritized later," Mott said.

Alderwomen Mary Jo Fesenmaier and Arleen Krohn both said they are not in favor of borrowing $3.2 million. Fesenmaier said she would consider looking at a list if the price tag was less.

Krohn said she believed some of the items on the list are not necessary and more "wish list" material.

Following a question from Krause, City Administrator Dennis Jordan said no referendum is needed to borrow the funds or complete any of the projects. There is direct legislation in the city which requires any public works construction of more than $1.1 million go to the voters in a referendum. He said none of the projects exceed that total.

Based on the council members' responses, Krause said he believed the consensus was to move forward with the idea to borrow, but with an unknown total and unknown project list for now.

He told aldermen to "dissect" and "rank" each of the items on the list provided by Jordan. He told them to rank items from urgent to wish and submit the information to him. The list will be recompiled and it will be discussed at the Jan. 24, Finance, License and Regulation Committee meeting.