Council: Yes to road referendum, no to community center funding in CIP
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield taxpayers will be asked if they wish to increase property taxes so that the city can do more to repair and reconstruct roads. The referendum question will likely be on the Aug. 9 primary ballot and will ask voters for about $6.8 million over five years. The common council approved going to referendum at Tuesday’s meeting.
Of the $6.8 million, about $5 million would be spent reconstructing several streets in the community, and about $1.8 million would go towards the city’s asphalt program for resurfacing roads. The referendum, if passed, would hike the city’s property tax rate from $9.07 to $10.07 per $1,000 of assessed home value from 2017-2021.
The referendum was approved as part of the city’s capital improvement program (CIP), which is a financial planning tool. The CIP does not bind the city to spend the money contained in the plan. It is rather used as a guide. However, if voters approve a referendum, that money would unquestionably be used by the city for “major road work,” said City Administrator Steve Barg.
Community center funding taken out of CIP
The CIP was also slated to include $1 million for potential enhancements to the new community center, but the council voted to remove that potential funding.
The current Marshfield Public Library will become the community center once the Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library is finished. The council approved the floor plan for the new community center Tuesday night, which will allow the city to get an estimate of what renovations may cost.
Barg said the $1 million in the CIP for community center enhancements would have been simply a “placeholder” in the planning document and not a firm commitment to spend that amount of money.
“We have no idea what to talk about in terms of the cost of this potential work until we get real numbers, real estimates from our construction manager,” Barg said.
Mayor Chris Meyer said the city would revisit the discussion of funding for community center improvements once a cost estimate is gathered based on the approved floor plan. Barg said that a cost estimate would likely come “some time this summer.”
Initially, the plan for the library and community center project was for $6 million to be privately raised and $3 million to come from the city. However, the private fundraising efforts have brought in about $5 million, leaving a $1 million shortfall for community center improvements.
Early in 2015 the council approved a resolution, which stated in part, “No city financial contribution is anticipated for completion of Phase 2 (the community center renovations) as the entire $2 million (for that aspect of the project) is expected from private fundraising, grants, and/or other funding sources.”
Alderman Mike Feirer indicated that taking the $1 million out of the CIP was a bad sign for those that wish to see the full scope of community center improvements realized.
“Now we’re telling these people (project fundraisers) who went out and beat the doors and got us 5 million (dollars), we’re saying, ‘Oh, wait a minute. The city’s not happy. You only got us 5 million (dollars). Where’s that other million (dollars)?’” Feirer said. “If you say, ‘Well, we weren’t going to fund it now because we don’t have it. We’ll build it later.’ Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not going to happen. (It) doesn’t, and it never will.”
Alderwoman Alanna Feddick said that the city should stick by its resolution and not allocate money towards the community center.
“Regardless of Mr. Feirer’s passion, that was the policy the council passed. That was the policy. The city wasn’t going to come up with that. It was going to be fundraising,” Feddick said.
Alderman Ed Wagner added that if the CIP were to contain $1 million for potential community center improvements, even as simply a placeholder, entities working on the project would look to spend that amount of money.
“If we say, ‘We’ve got a million dollars set aside,’ I guarantee you … the architects, the builders, the construction managers are going to find a way to spend that million dollars,” Wagner said.
The floor plan for the community center includes space for senior citizens, the Aging and Disability Resource Center, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Marshfield History Museum, and meeting and multipurpose areas.