This past Monday’s meeting was over four hours long. We went through the financials with our auditor. That took awhile. We learned that according to the auditor, we have critical issues. You see that the word critical was underlined. The auditor put that underline in there on the report. We spent more than we took in last year. And it’s not a Covid thing—we actually brought in more property taxes than we expected, and we got Covid relief. So the inflows were pretty good, but we just spent a lot of money. And the auditor suggests we stop doing that. Our debt is higher, and our debt service jumped 51% in 2020. But to be fair, in some ways we did better than previous years. But it’s not where we need to be—his words, not mine.
I’ve started this letter with the auditor’s report because that sets my mood for the next guys on the agenda. They come from Cedar Corp, our engineering firm. I’ve previously discussed that Dodge Street is being rebuilt to get new lead free water and sewers, new streets and new sidewalks. This is a popular concept among those living on Dodge Street. And as you might remember, I voiced the opinion that residents on Dodge Street did not want street widening, tree removal, limits on street parking or bikes lanes.
Here is the city’s Project Description for Dodge Street:
The City of Kewaunee is planning to re-construct approximately 3,600 lineal feet (0.68 miles) miles of Dodge Street from Baumeister drive on the South to Kilbourn Street on the North beginning in April of 2022 or later pending funding assistance. The re-construction would tentatively be completed by November 2022 and would replace aging sewer, water, and storm sewer infrastructure, as well as provide an opportunity to eliminate cross-connections and replace both public and private sections of lead laterals.
That sounds great—I am all for it! At least one street in my district will get clean, safe drinking water, a new street and new sidewalks. And everyone is for it, especially and most importantly the people of Dodge Street.
But wait! There were two people from Cedar Corp. One did a really great job describing the engineering issues and the timing of the project. And he was very helpful. Then there was the other guy—I think the sales guy— who couldn’t stop saying “Bike Lanes”. Let me describe what he proposed to build on Dodge Street. You would have a five foot sidewalk on each side of the street, then a 6 foot bike lane on each side of the street. Then there would be a separation of 3 feet between the bike lanes and traffic. I’m not sure what this would be—maybe grass or concrete? But you can neither drive your car nor your bike on it. And there are two of them in the middle of the street. Then finally in the very middle of the street there would be traffic lanes. The curb to curb measurement would be 40 feet. Now remember, the first two blocks of the project currently have 30 feet curb to curb. Ten feet would have to be removed, along with lots of trees, for this project to be completed (they say 80 trees). Also, I don’t quite know how these streets would be plowed. We do live in northern Wisconsin, and snow is a season this plan seems to be forgetting.
Now I know that the reason he brought up bike lanes is because that is a potential source of funding. However, the grant for bike lanes is only $10,000. And then came the coup-de-grace. The sales guy says, “You know the bike lanes are just 2.2 percent of the total budget.” I asked him what that came to in dollar terms. He answered, “$77,000–not much considering the scope of this project.” That number is equal to the combined annual property taxes of the first 21 homes on Dodge Street. Zillow is an amazing resource for these calculations. And all that tax money that COULD go to the ambulance service (who by the way gave a wonderful presentation at this meeting and needs funding to continue their outstanding service), police salaries and cleaner water, now would go to bike lanes that nobody wants.
And Cedar Corp knows that the residents don’t want bike lanes because they say in their Project Funding Strategy that “Resident concerns may exist with respect to the removal of street parking”. But they continue to note that “A review of Google Maps Street View showed only three (3) cars parked on the project’s street segments.” I really wonder when on earth they reviewed that street—maybe 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon? Not during a Packer Sunday or during a wedding weekend at the Hollyhock House. According to Cedar Corp, you don’t need street parking but you do need bike lanes, street widening and lots of tree removal to make all this happen. I think it’s critical that Cedar Corp. sticks to our actual needs and stops sending us the sales guy.
Thanks for listening,