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July 31, 2013 | 08:28 AMTo the Editor:
Rebuttal to "Village board needs civics lesson" written July 25, 2013, by John Halverson, editor and general manager of the Regional News.
First I think that it would be helpful to your readers to see the petition that you are referencing. It is as follows:
"Prior to the expenditure of any funds for the design planning or construction of any municipal financed capital project (in whole or in part) requiring a village capital expenditure of $500,000 or more, the village board shall submit to the electors of the village of Genoa City a binding referendum to approve or disapprove said project. Failure of the binding referendum shall preclude the village from proceeding with the project. The wording of any referendum shall provide the specific purpose, location and cost of the project. The ordinance shall be in full force and effect upon passage and publication as provided by law."
The first sentence says no funds can be spent for planning, design or construction before being approved by referendum. Yet the referendum must include "specific purpose, location and cost of the project." As a first step, all projects of this scope have specific requirements defined by the village engineer or other expert hired by the village. This would include the specific purpose and location. The village has to pay the engineer or other expert to plan or design any project. The cost of the project is determined by bid from the contractors interested in doing the specified project. Therefore, no referenda could be submitted to the electorate.
If this proposed ordinance were in effect, there could be no projects over $400,000 for whatever reason. I chose $400,000 instead of the $500,000 because we would need a margin of error so if we guessed that a project was less than $500,000 and it was not, we would be in violation of this proposed ordinance.
Since 2000, we have had 12 projects (street, water, and sewer) that could not have been done because they exceeded the $400,000 limit and there are four other projects already scheduled, and at least eight others, that are probably coming in the next 10 years. Some are mandated by the state or the DNR. If we don't do a mandated project, then we will be fined until the project is completed; this fine would be ongoing because we couldn't do the project due to the referendum restriction.
It would have been irresponsible for the village board to not take action to prevent such a restrictive ordinance from going into effect. It did prompt us to enact an ordinance which provides input on large projects without preventing us from acting in the best interest of the village.
The editorial says "At the root of the petition is concern that the village may spend money on a new village hall." There is nothing in the petition for the proposed ordinance that refers to a village hall. The editorial says that board members should go door to door explaining the facts. What we have done to disseminate the facts more efficiently is:
1. Held open meetings of the village hall committee, which is comprised of board members, village employees and village citizens.
2. Had discussions and reports at village board meetings
3. Had numerous articles in the Lake Geneva Regional News, the village's official newspaper.
4. Established a village hall web site, sites.google.com/site/gcvillagehall/.
The facts with respect to recommendations for the village hall are still being investigated. Options will be presented to the community in the near future by the professional hired to do the evaluation and the village hall committee.