Finance committee meeting notes

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At last night’s Finance Committee, the following major items were discussed:

The Kenosha Area Business Alliance (KABA) gave their 2nd quarter loan report.  The revolving loan fund and the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) fund were reviewed.  The KABA representative was pleased to report that there were no past dues in either fund.  Both Chairman David Bogdala and Alderperson Daniel Prozanski had questions for the KABA rep regarding who at KABA is responsible for going out, seeking and attracting new business to locate here in Kenosha.  Todd Battle, the president, does this.  Prozanski requested an update on what the organization is doing regarding the economic development of Kenosha.  The 2nd quarter report was received and filed.

Keith Bosman, the mayor, proposed a resolution to adopt a project plan amendment for Tax Incremental District (TID) #4, which is created for blight elimination.  What the committee approved last night by a vote of 4 to 1, was a change in the project description.  AM Community Credit Union now holds $2 million, of which $1.5 million has already been loaned out.  They will now make the funds available for commercial loans.  People within a six-block radius of the Chrysler plant are eligible for loans to rehab their owner-occupied homes.  Alderperson Eric Haugaard requested that the boundaries of the TID be reviewed because “it just doesn’t look correct to me.”  Bogdala mentioned the JOBSNOW program as being a tremendous opportunity that the city should take advantage of.  Katherine Marks was the sole dissenting vote both at this committee and at the City Council vote later in the evening.

The mayor also proposed a resolution awarding the sale of $13 million in general obligation promissory notes for Kenosha.  The sale of these bonds was completed yesterday.  Bogdala asked how the sale could take place without the committee’s approval.  Carol Stancato, the city’s finance director, remarked that the sale yesterday locks in the interest rates of between 1.5 and 3.12% of costs to the city.  If the sale was deferred or not approved, they’d have to go back to the bond market, which is a high price to pay because the interest rates would undoubtedly go up.  The resolution was approved unanimously both at this committee and at the City Council vote later in the evening.

The most heated discussion of the evening centered around the topic of Neighborhood Services and Inspection (NSI) fees.  Chairman Bogdala questioned Martha Swartz, a property maintenance inspector, regarding a “mistake she almost made” in waiving an administrative fee that was assessed on a property for grass cutting.  Apparently, Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia requested that the fee be waived.  In her desire to work with the alderman, she “almost” granted the request.  She admitted she made an error.  Bogdala was adamant that his constituents were never afforded these types of waivers.

Paula Blise, the zoning coordinator, stated that the prior director of NSI, James Schultz, had a habit of waiving fees.  There was even a form on the internet, which she recently took down.  Bogdala brought up a Public Safety and Welfare meeting held on January 25, 2010, wherein Mr. Schultz was told to stop the waivers.  Frank Pacetti, the city administrator, stated that he was unaware of any of this.  Bogdala found it unacceptable.  “Had it not been for me stumbling on it, how many others have there been?  Someone needs to be held accountable.”  Blise also stated that last year, records were voided and purged.  She stated that Schultz had a “philosophy” of negating fees for churches.  Prozanski wondered if there had been a “culture” created and sustained with or without other administrative peoples’ knowledge.  With Schultz retiring earlier this year, Prozanski asked if this would be a good time for re-training of staff.

Alderperson Michael Orth happened to be in the audience, and Bogdala asked him about the January 25th meeting.  “Was the directive ignored?” Bogdala asked.  Orth’s response was that “the former director didn’t take direction from the committee.”  Orth said that he found himself at odds with Schultz on several occasions.  Orth also made comments as to how easy it should be for a computer specialist to go into a data base and find out what was removed due to the time stamps that are placed on entries.

Bogdala called for a full-blown investigation into the NSI fees that were purged by the director.  “This falls to you, Mr. Pacetti.  The taxpayers have been cheated.  This is a failure of leadership.  We did not combine the two departments just because we thought it was a neat idea; that department needed significant overhaul.  The citizens need an explanation as to who else had fees waived and who hasn’t.”  Bogdala wants a follow-up in two weeks.

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