Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Fontana creating road repairs plan

by Rob Ireland

August 04, 2011

Pollitt
Spadoni
Fontana — Before paving roads that are in disrepair, the Village Board wants to know the life expectancy of the utilities underneath the asphalt.

During Monday night's Village Board meeting, trustees approved spending up to $6,000 to have its engineering firm, Ruekert Mielke, create a pavement management plan. The motion was approved on a 5-1 vote, with Trustee Peg Pollitt voting against.

Trustee George Spadoni has spearheaded an effort to borrow money to repair roads in the village, while Pollitt is uneasy about increasing the village's debt, which is about $25 million.

At the past two Village Board meetings, residents — primarily ones living near Stearns Road — have questioned why the board hasn't repaired their street.

Discussions on repairs have been focused on four roads — Stearns Road, Shabbona Drive and Dewey and Lake streets. The village also needs to fund the construction of a new standpipe and abandon the Brookwood water tower. In total, the borrowing could reach about $4 million.

In Ruekert Mielke's proposal, the engineering firm will create a map and planning booklet outlining the conditions of the pavement, storm water and utility planning, water main information and borrowing plans.

Village Administrator Kelly Hayden said the engineer's plan will help the village create a blueprint for future road repairs.

"Right now we are almost reactionary to our problems," Hayden said.

Spadoni at first questioned why Ruekert Mielke's proposal was necessary. However, after learning more about the proposal he supported it saying it was a good idea.

"Our roads are so old and in such disrepair that we don't know what exists underneath the abyss," Spadoni said Tuesday morning.

What about the debt?

James Mann, the village's financial advisor, presented a debt analysis report to the board, which outlined the village's total debt. The village's overall debt burden is 2.68 percent of its total equalized value, which is below the median Mann provided of 3.10 percent.

According to the numbers Mann provided, Delavan has a 4.68 percent debt to equalized value and Elkhorn has 5.68 percent.

Spadoni said Mann's report shows him the village can afford to borrow money to repair for roads.

"We are in great shape, except for the roads," Spadoni said.

He said he understands that borrowing more money will mean an increase in the tax rate, but, he said, the residents he speaks to accept that.

"If we have to raise taxes I can do that to pay for the roads," Spadoni said. "There are three things that citizens want: their garbage picked up, the roads salted and they want good solid roads."

Pollitt said after reviewing Mann's numbers, she remains concerned about the village borrowing more money and taking on additional debt.

"We pay close to $1 million a year in principal and interest payments," Pollitt said. "Almost 25 percent of our budget is in principal and interest payments. It is not good fiscal policy."

Spadoni said a large portion of the village's debt, about $17 million, is related to Tax Increment Financing. Spadoni said some of that money will come back to the village through increased increment.

However, in Fontana, the amount of debt per capita is higher than any other community in Mann's comparison. The overall debt per capita in Fontana is $17,719, the median is $2,331.

In Elkhorn, the debt per capita is $4,073 and in Delavan it is 3,984.

Spadoni said the debt per capita figure is irrelevant. The amount per capita considers the full-time village residents, but not the part-time residents who own property.

"We have the highest evaluation other than two communities in the state. That number doesn't mean anything of the amount of people in the village."

Pollitt said she is not opposed to repairing roads, just incurring more debt.

"I'm not opposed to raising taxes to pay for roads, but I'm opposed to raising taxes to pay for more debt and interest payments," Pollitt said.