Common Council votes to restore hourly bus service on Saturday

At the Kenosha Common Council Committee of the Whole meeting held earlier tonight, one of the motions that was approved was to include $25,873 in the Transit budget to provide hourly bus service for all of the Saturday routes.  This motion was made by Alderperson Tod Ohnstad.  The reason he gave was that it helps the elderly, the handicapped, and those less fortunate in the community.  “This is a ‘trial balloon,'” he said.  “It will again be reviewed to possibly continue funding in the future.”  At least three citizens had spoken during the public hearing in favor of this service restoration.

Alderperson David Bogdala asked Mayor Keith Bosman if he was in support of this ‘trial balloon,’ and the mayor replied that he had no position on it.  Alderperson Michael Orth noted that revenue miles were down from last year, but that ridership was up.  Demand was more now than it was a year ago.

The roll call vote was 16 to 1, with Bogdala being the sole dissenting voter.

Other motions made by Bogdala did not fare as well with the votes.  He made a motion to reduce the line item from $650,000 to $50,000 for the new fire administration office, and adding $100,000 for a study to determine the feasibility of a new fire station for the west side, and $500,000 for a downtown business incubator.  He cited the census statistics stating that 50% of the growth occurred west of Green Bay Road, and the fire chief’s articulation that not having a fire station on the west side was an issue.  Bogdala stated that he’d rather see $50,000 spent on renovating the offices in the current municipal building than building new. This motion failed by a vote of 7 to 10.  Those voting against were Alderpersons Chris Schwartz, Jan Michalski, Rocco LaMacchia, Tod Ohnstad, Patrick Juliana, Anthony Kennedy, Scott Gordon, Curt Wilson, Daniel Prozanski, and Michael Orth.

At one point, the mayor reminded everyone about the process.  “This began back in July.  The budget has been in the Common Council’s hands for two months now.  Various committee meetings have been held.  The Public Safety and Welfare and Finance Committees have vetted this issue over and over again.  We now have 500 pages of budgets.  We’ve already gone through this process.  If you continue to float ‘trial balloons’ all night, I’ll stay as long as you want.  Here, we end up with amendments.  The process is complete now.”

Bogdala disagreed with the mayor.  He said that the process is not complete until tomorrow night when the Common Council votes.  “This is the people’s work we’re doing now.  It doesn’t matter if it takes five minutes or five hours.  This is not a done deal.”

Alderperson Steve Bostrom made a motion to add $350,000 for remediation and purchase of a piece of property at 32nd Avenue and 63rd Street that the city had promised to acquire.  This motion failed as well, after the city attorney basically stated that there should be minimal risk to the city.  The vote was 6 to 11.

Another motion Bostrom made regarding adding $30,000 to the reforestation of Southport Park also failed by a vote of 6 to 11.  This was after Carol Stancato, the city’s finance director, stated that there is already $70,000 in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for reforestation of all city parks.

Alderperson Kevin Mathewson made a motion to amend the $750,000 designated for renovation of Simmons Baseball Field to $50,000 in order to conduct a feasibility study.  Bogdala’s concern stemmed from the fact that no other alternatives were reviewed, that there was no master plan, nor a Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP) plan.  Bogdala said that he looked in the newspaper’s archives back to 1990 and found an article where the mayor, then a citizen, opposed the North Woods League as the first and only ‘brass ring’ that was offered.  The mayor said that he didn’t remember that.  Bosman also stated that the lease agreement was almost finished and that the Common Council will have an opportunity to vote on it in December.  A question was raised regarding the origin of the money for this project.  Bostrom, the alderperson of the district, called for a public meeting on this project because of the parking and traffic concerns.  This motion also failed by a vote of 3 to 14.  Those voting in favor were Alderpersons G. John Ruffolo, Kevin Mathewson, and Bogdala.

The vote to approve the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), as presented by the Finance Committee, was approved by a vote of 16 to 1.  Mathewson was the sole dissenting voter.

Bogdala made another motion to increase the building and structure permit revenue from $725,000 to $850,000, which was later amended to $826,000, but that motion also failed.  It was brought up that the projected revenue for 2012 has not met the budgeted amount.  LaMacchia said that it didn’t make sense to him to raise the revenue amount when the current year’s projection wasn’t even met.  Juliana agreed.  Even with the problem of enforcement issues being taken care of, the Council voted 6 to 11 to raise the revenue amount.  That motion failed as well.

Then, the discussion turned toward the storm water utility’s cash and fund balances.  Bogdala and Bostrom wanted to know the balances in those accounts.  Stancato said that the amount of the fund balance was a negative $2.8 million.  Their interest was that, if there was a positive balance, and the citizens were being overtaxed, that the money should be returned to the citizens.

Bogdala then asked questions about the health insurance plan.  The plan that the mayor used to create the budget was different from the one that the Health Care Committee recommended.  He wanted to know why the committee recommended the lower-end plan, yet the mayor chose the higher-end plan, and ignored the two plans in the middle.  Bosman said the reason was the cost.

Bogdala wanted to know what the average cost of the 2% raise would be.  Frank Pacetti, the city administrator, said the average was $1,100.  Bogdala wanted cost estimates of the health care plans, but Pacetti said that they couldn’t be discussed because the contract bargaining was still ongoing.

The vote to approve the 2013 city of Kenosha budgets, making appropriations, and levying 2012 property taxes was approved by a vote of 12 to 5.  Those voting against were Ruffolo, Mathewson, Bostrom, Downing, and Bogdala.

The 2013 public library tax levy was approved by a vote of 15 to 2.  Those voting against were Downing and Bogdala.

The 2013 public museum budget was approved by a vote of 16 to 1.  Downing was the sole dissenting voter.

The resolution by the mayor to approve the 2013 budget and operating plan of the Kenosha Lakeshore Business Improvement District (BID) and to levy special assessments was approved by a vote of 14 to 3.  Those voting against were Bostrom, Downing, and Bogdala.

The resolution by the mayor to approve the table of organization of the city of Kenosha, to reclassify positions, to modify the compensation plans for non-represented, managerial, supervisory, and professional employees and limited term, seasonal, temporary, and part-time employees and to modify employee benefits for both represented and non-represented employees and to modify the job classifications for 2013 was approved by a vote of 14 to 3.  Those voting against were Bostrom, Downing, and Bogdala.

The resolution by the mayor to establish stormwater utility rates within the city of Kenosha was approved by a vote of 11 to 6.

Both meetings (the public hearings on the CIP and the budget) and the committee of the whole lasted over three and one-half hours.

The city’s tax levy will increase 1.79% from last year based on the city’s $72 million operating budget.

Tomorrow night, at 5:00 pm, the Common Council will meet again for final approval of the spending plans.

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