Public hearings on city’s CIP and budget

Photo by mensatic via MorgueFile.com

Yesterday, public hearings were held on the city’s 2013-2017 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and the 2013 city of Kenosha budget.  There were more than a few citizens who made comments on the documents.  Listed below is a summary of those comments:

Paul McDonough, owner of several properties in downtown Kenosha:  “I am representing 50-plus downtown merchants and businesses supporting the streetcar expansion.  It’s a catalyst and an economic tool.  There were 45,000 riders last year, and 300,000 museum customers.  Riders are potential customers, and we really want to capture people.  This economic loop will be more viable than the existing loop.  This is one of the top five initiatives beneficial to business downtown.”

Robert Thomas:  “I have the opposite point of view.  This is a trolley to nowhere.  This loop makes as much sense as the first one.  I’d like to know what the cost to the city per rider is.  The city will have to spend $2 million.  The $8.2 million that we’re getting from the federal government is not Obama’s money; it’s our money.  We’re footing the whole bill.  It’s not free, and it’s not going to help us.  I’ve been on the trolley once.  The only person I ever see on the trolley is the driver.  It will help very few.  I’m against it, and I hope to see you people against it, too.”

Glenn Woods:  “I have a similar opinion.  The trolley lost $128,000 last year.  It’s a toy.  I like toys.  But, it will never be useful.  It’s a very expensive toy.  The only thing that will bring money in the downtown area is shopping.  The only thing that will ever save downtown is the stores.  Just leave it there, it’s paid for, it’s costing us to run it as it is.  Let’s not make it worse.”

John Doyle, co-founder of the Kenosha Streetcar Society and author of the book, Kenosha on the Go:  “Kenosha has a golden opportunity to expand down 6th Avenue and develop new businesses along 8th Avenue.  Why send $8 million gift back to the federal government.  It will take one block a week to complete.  This will be a billboard to street car passengers.  They’re always asking, ‘Where can we go?  Where can we eat? What is there to do in Kenosha?’  We have shown them our Harbor Park area.  Now, let’s show them our business area.  I’m going to give you copies of my book, and I’d like you to read the last chapter, The Return of Streetcars to Kenosha.”

Doug Williams, member of the Redevelopment Authority:  “I like the Kenosha Dream Playground Project.  I will helping out at the Pasta for a Playground benefit dinner on December 9th.  I hope to see all of you there, too.  The streetcar can benefit the city.  We will be looking at path options.  The benefits are the jobs it helps to create and the improved tourism that it brings.  I’m disappointed in seeing that we are greatly lacking in updating the technology in the city.  This amounts to reduced productivity.  And, I thank the mayor for the small compensation increase that’s included.”

Theodora Gottstein:  “The streetcar connects the three museums.  If there is to be an expansion, it would make sense to connect it with the History Center and Light House Museum to the north.  If it goes south, then the Durkee Mansion and the Anderson Arts Center.  That would make much more sense than going around Library Park.”

Ralph Ruffolo, a Kenosha business owner for 31 years:  “The trolley is too expensive to expand.  It costs $4 million to run; we collected $300,000 in fares.  It’s the taxpayer’s money.  The $8 million should be returned to the federal government.  We are $16 trillion in debt.  This is China’s money we’re using.  It’s not a successful business endeavor.  I am a Kenosha supporter, but the trolley is a clunker of an idea.  The $2 million that has been set aside could be spent better.  Take the $2 million and buy the downtown buildings, and make that property ready for redevelopment.  We don’t want to show visitors from out of town our empty buildings.”

Marian Blust:  “I immigrated here with my parents in 1954.  Instead of streetcars, Kenosha should put in a bimmelbahn, which is flexible going around corners.  No tracks are needed.  This is what they have in Europe.  Or, I’ve seen a charming restaurant made out of a streetcar.  But, that needs a town square.  You need to tear down the least expensive property and make stores on the bottom, and apartments on the top.  And, not all the same facades.  And flowers, flowers, flowers.  Villa de Carlo is successful.  It pulls people in.”

Megan, who lives in Library Park: “The streetcar will do more harm than good.  Is this what we want people to see?  All the struggling businesses and empty buildings, like the Heritage House.  My favorite part of living downtown is being close to all the events.  The hospital has a wonderful cafe.  People should be taking walking tours.  Keep the streetcar in Harbor Park.  I’m also a Marina Gardens employee.  And, my boss asked me to also speak on his behalf .  He’s also opposed to it.  It’s a waste of money.”

Ericka Short, a Congregations United to Save Humanity (CUSH) member:  “I grew up in Monroe, Wisconsin.  They had a courthouse in the middle with shops in the square.  I’m concerned about the future,20 or 30 years from now.  Buses are a thing of the past.  With the reduced bus routes, I can’t enjoy the community I love.  Routes 1 and 3 don’t run on Saturday.  That’s where I live.  I can’t spend my disposable income.  I won’t go to Target.  I don’t go anywhere.  If you had to rely on the bus system, you might see things differently.  This was a car town.  But, the future of our youth, with their texting and with their cell phones.  We need to look to the future.”

James Jake, owner of Sports and Ski Chalet:  “I have been in business for 40 years.  Where the trolley will come through, right in front of my store, there is a sharp bend.  This is a narrow road.  Is there enough room for a car door to even open?  Plus, we have to be concerned about the bikers.  There are two bike paths.  Having tracks on the avenue will cause accidents.  Store buildings are hit a lot.  I’m afraid they’ll take away parking places.  You can’t park in the Best Western lot any more; you’ll get towed.  I’m against the trolley.  Adding in another line won’t bring in business.  We need the parking places for people to enjoy the water.”

Mary Dixon, a Library Square property owner:  “I agree with the Kenosha News editorial that was published in the paper today.  It will take one week per block to put the tracks in.  Where will the workers come from?  Out of town?  There is one person operating the trolley.  If the trolley goes north to Carthage, what will they use?  The median strip?  This is so-called green technology.”

Raul Barrett:  “People are saying that the trolleys are a waste of money.  It’s a common fallacy to think it’s not worthwhile.  You have to spend money to make money.  I’m in favor of the trolleys.  People will spend money on shops, eating.  The $8 or $10 million of federal money, if we don’t take it, it will go somewhere else.  Don’t talk to the negative naysayers.”

Louis Rugani:  “In an article I received this morning, it said that there here are 11 major U. S. streetcar projects, plus 20 unnamed others.  All have expended, except us.  In the Kenosha News survey dated September 24, 2010, it asked what should the city do?  Should they spend $1 million to get the $4 million for the streetcar expansion?  Forty-three percent (43%) said yes.  Now, the amount has grown to $8.2 million from the $4 million.  It’s our money.  People love street cars.  Harbor Park and downtown is not nowhere.  Developers write checks they they see tracks.  Thanks for your support.  If we turn down the federal money, do you think they’re going to keep giving it?”

Bill Kesel, president of the Kenosha Pilots Association:  “The airport tenants are opposed to the runway expansion, adding the 1,100 feet at the expense of the small business owners at the airport.  There is more than a 30% increase in property taxes.  The new storm water levy is 50% increase in land use.  It was $32,000, but it was actually billed at $132,000.  For nine months, I’ve been trying to find out about this billing, but my requests have not been answered. They referred me to the Finance Department.  Now, I put in a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how we are being taxed, how it is being computed.   The square footage, plus the 1,000 acres of land surrounding the airport.  The flight school went out of business.   I am opposed to the airport expansion.  We were flat billed, yet the ordinance says that it should be based on the amount of rainfall.  There are 49 hangars at the airport.  This $100,000 came out of the business owners’ pockets.”

Kenneth Hebior, a downtown business owner:  “There is no good reason for this.  The streetcar system has been here for 12 years, with nothing to spur development.  It’s half full or full only when it’s free.  Other have had some good ideas.  A town square is needed.  There are better ways to spend the $2 million.  I think we need to rethink this through and turn the money down.”

Merike Phillips, a Library Park property owner, and a member of the Historic Preservation Commission:  “It’s a wonderful streetcar system, an attraction.  My concern is the two-mile loop being added.  It will not bring more tourists or more business, just more traffic congestion.  We have already heard about the problems with bikes and vans.  I live on the corner of 8th Avenue.  There are accidents there all the time.  They will have to rip up the streets and place utility poles every 80 feet with wires.  It’s not necessary to have it loop around Library Park.  For 12 years, we’ve had the street car, and commercial development didn’t come to 56th Street.  The city spent $328,000 on the street car system last year and took in $138,000.  That means it cost us $14 for each $1 fare.  We need to promote and advertise.  We should be giving the $10 million to the buses.  Give it to those who need to go to work, etc.  This is not free money.  It’s not a good gift if we have to pay $2 million to get it.”

John Fox, a downtown business owner:  “I’ve seen a lot of changes in the downtown area since I was 21.  In the last ten years, there have been new businesses that have gone in on 56th Street after the streetcar was put in, a bakery, a brewery, etc.  They move the populace.  It would work if it would go west, not north and south.  If it doesn’t go west, get rid of it.  It could go under the viaducts, you could dig down.  Kenosha is popular because of the street car and the Civil War Museum.  Yes for expansion west, no for expansion north.”

Larry Borchart, a Pleasant Prairie resident who manages two business at the Kenosha Airport:  “I am in support of the runway extension for safety and efficiency reasons.  It’s part of my business plan, it’s crucial.”

Steve Stanofowski, a resident of Oak Forest, Illinois, and a pilot:  “I’m in favor of the runway extension.  I’ll be able to go farther with the jet, and it will be safer in  inclement weather.”

Joyce Kansian:  “I’m against the trolley.  It’s a toy for those that enjoy it.  Be responsible people, and do the right thing.”

Sharon Ann Shorts, a Kenosha Airport hangar owner:  “I am disputing the item in the budget on storm water fees.  It comes out to nine cents a square foot.  This has brought on a 50% increase in lease fees.  Three other companies are moving to more affordable airports.  The FAA has designated the airport as a public use airport.  In the 90’s, there was a wait list for hangars.  Today, there are 20 that are for sale and ten rentals.  It used to be a take it or leave it airport.  Now, it’s becoming a leave it airport.”

Sandy Milligan, president of CUSH:  “I’m here to speak on the Saturday bus service.  Having the routes run only every two hours provides limited service.  We were told that it would cost $40,000 to increase the service back to hourly.  This would meet the needs of the people.  If the city can spend $114,000 on the streetcar, then $40,000 would be well worth it.  We need to serve the citizens of Kenosha.”

Louis Rugani:  “All expenses having to do with the streetcars are covered by 51% by federal and state subsidies .”

Richard Christianson, a member of the CUSH task force:  “The six bus routes which used to start at 6 am and run until 5 pm used two buses, one starting at each end.  It was a workable service.  But, with the budget cuts, Ron Iwen, the transit director, studied it and brought it down to three routes.  This represented a cut back in the number of routes and in the hours.  Now, only one bus runs from 9 am to 4 pm.  It takes one bus two hours to make the entire loop.  This leaves our most vulnerable citizens stranded many times.  It’s a small, but significant use of our money.  People are less likely to get stranded.”

Marian Blust:  “People are looking to the downtown streetcar as the miracle to bring Kenosha back to life.  It’s the businesses and the people that will bring Kenosha back to life.  Make it welcome for the people to go into the store fronts.”

Bill Kesel, president of the Kenosha Pilots Association:  “The storm water utility and the airport budgets need review.  The city saved $700,000 to $800,000 by installing new augurs at the plant.  They eliminated the need for trucks of lime.  A separate cost center was set up.  The amount of $5.5 million needs to be re-billed to the Kenosha citizens as a tax increase.  There was no adjustment for rainfall in the bills.  We are the only airport in the United States where we’re being billed.  Airport tenants are paying for these fees.  This is an unconstitutional method of raising revenue.”

Virginia Thomas:  “This is a trolley to nowhere.  It will be abandoned in the future, just like the mall.  Think before you do things.  Be a little more concerned about money.  Run it out to the airport.”

4 Responses to Public hearings on city’s CIP and budget

  • Merike Phillips says:

    Correction: MERIKE PHILLIPS COMMENT (line three) should read: It will NOT bring more tourist or business, just traffic congestion…
    (The plan is to add two miles of track but have only ONE Streetcar operating on four miles, instead of on two miles).

  • Paul Modica says:

    Anyone that walks around downtown knows that this “Trolley to Nowhere” will only hurt the downtown area. Much like the “walking mall” idea drove almost every business out of the downtown area.
    Kenosha’s tax payers cannot afford this kind of backwards thinking any longer. We need to ATTRACT business not drive them out!
    As for all the business with their “I support the trolley expansion” signs in their windows, how much of your money are YOU willing to put up for this?
    At the very least it needs to be put on a referendum and let the tax payers of Kenosha decide.

  • Juri Komendant says:

    Kenosha Folly, 6th street Trolly

  • Juri Komendant says:

    Kenosha Folly, 6th Street Trolly

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