Prairie du Chien and Bridgeport disagree on road project funding

By Correne Martin

A disagreement erupted between the city of Prairie du Chien and the town of Bridgeport during Tuesday night’s PdC Common Council meeting.

The town of Bridgeport is asking the city of Prairie du Chien to contribute $179,333 toward reconstruction of Vineyard Coulee Road in 2014. Bridgeport would be responsible for $374,727. But the Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital has approved giving $100,000 to the project, since improvements would significantly impact the hospital’s new location.

Represented by Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock and Bridgeport Town Chairman John Karnopp Tuesday night, the town informed the council that it intends to use the hospital’s entire contribution to offset its costs (bringing their portion to $274,727) and not share it with the city.

City Administrator Aaron Kramer said he was informed on Monday afternoon that the town did not intend to share the contribution with the city. He questioned why other neighboring businesses and property owners in the township were not being asked to contribute to the project.

“In fact, we learned the town had asked the hospital to contribute $200,000, which, if the hospital had agreed, would have meant the town was paying less than the city for the project, yet more than two-thirds of the project is in the town,” Kramer stated. “While I think we all agree the road could use an upgrade, I think we want to reach an agreement that is fair to the taxpayers of the city and the town.”

Because the city owns 32.4 percent of the Vineyard Coulee section proposed for reconstruction, some council members felt the city should be able to use 32.4 percent of the $100,000 to offset its portion of the bill. Overall, council members were very adamant that the town would be unfair in keeping the entire amount and that more information and crunching of numbers was needed before they would feel comfortable approving city funds for the project.

According to Pelock, who is overseeing the town’s project, “The town applied for this project before the annexation of the hospital (into the city this year). The Bridgeport board feels they’ve lost a significant chunk of their tax base with the annexation.” Pelock also pointed out that the town is willing to share 32.4 percent of its (WisDOT) grant dollars with the city. “Those are dollars designated for towns, so they don’t even have to do that,” he said.

The estimated total project cost is $991,671, including design and management fees. After a grant of over $450,000, the remainder would be $554,060. According to City Administrator Aaron Kramer, TIF funds would be available for the city’s portion of the project, yet if the council decided to use them, it would leave funds extremely tight in that area.

The council decided to table its decision on funding the project and direct staff to negotiate a possible cost-sharing arrangement for the project. There seemed to also be a difference of opinion between the city and the town on exactly how much road the city should be charged for.

“We have some numbers in front of us that need a bit more explanation and discussion,” Kramer said.

According to Pelock, this project has a sunset to it of June 2014 and he said time is of the essence so that, if the project moves forward, design work and other planning can be done. The town of Bridgeport board had hoped to make a decision at a meeting next week about the project time line. However, that decision will likely be postponed now.

The council is likely to come to a conclusion at the council’s Oct. 15 meeting.  

If the city decides to withhold funding, the town may not be able to proceed with the project.

“We don’t have half a million dollars for a project like this,” Karnopp stated.

Haydn Street crossing
Upon Administrator Kramer’s recommendation, the council voted to direct the city attorney to draft a Writ of Mandamus, or call to action, regarding the Haydn Street crossing decision. This is being done to compel the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads to release the findings of the Haydn Street crossing hearing held earlier this year.

New stop signs
City staff requested that stop signs be approved for installation on Overview and Rice and Overview and Glenn Streets now that the reconstruction of those streets is complete. Discussion was held on whether there had been enough time for public input on the proposal. Kramer suggested the council could vote as a first reading, and then bring the item back on Oct. 15 for a second and final reading. But Councilman Kyle Kozelka motioned to approve the installation and Karen Solomon seconded the action. The council voted 8-3 to install the signs immediately, with Mark Thein, Ken Fleshner and Jean Titlbach opposed.

Quiet zone on WSOR rails
Mayor Dave Hemmer asked the council whether or not to proceed with the application process for a Quiet Zone Designation on the Wisconsin Southern Railroad tracks within the city limits. The council agreed to direct city staff to investigate the feasibility of applying for the WSOR line. The city is also currently in the process of applying for a permanent Quiet Zone Designation for the BNSF tracks in the city.

Councilwoman resignation
Judeen Ames was recognized with a resolution due to her resignation from the council as of Sept. 30. She plans to move out of the community and closer to her grandchildren. She served on the council since 2008  and was on a number of committees, most recently as the chairwoman of the personnel, license and insurance committee.

The council reached a three-year agreement with Oktoberfest. Tony Rangel and Tom Nelson reviewed the schedule of events for this year’s Oct. 19 festivities.

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