Gov. Evers’ Capital Budget has $20 Million for Local Projects
The first job of the governor following a gubernatorial election is releasing a two-year state-budget plan. Having accomplished that in February, Gov. Tony Evers next released his capital budget or building plan – this one proposing to spend $3.8 billion on projects across the state.
Evers is also proposing to finance half of those projects with cash instead of borrowing, using a portion of the state’s projected $7.1 billion surplus at the end of this fiscal year, June 30.
The capital budget goes next to the State Building Commission, chaired by Evers and upon which Sen. André Jacque (R-De Pere) sits. The commission’s agenda for March 23 includes each of Evers’ capital-budget proposals for the full commission to approve or deny, though they can also be modified, Jacque said. All commission meetings are broadcast on wiseye.org.
The capital plan that emerges from the commission goes to the state’s Joint Finance Committee in preparation for the Legislature later this year.
Below are the projects in the plan that would benefit Door County.
Peninsula Players Theatre’s Dormitory Upgrade: $1 million
Evers included eight non–state-agency requests within his budget, and one of those was $1 million in cash for the Peninsula Players Theatre dormitory project to house seasonal interns and staff.
“It is such an honor that the work we’re doing is recognized as something of such importance that the governor chose to include it in the budget,” said Brian Kelsey, Peninsula Players’ executive director.
The project replaces aged, dilapidated housing that has no running water, indoor plumbing or climate control with two new dorm buildings, complete with modern amenities.
“The project will be ready for people to move in on Sunday, May 14,” Kelsey said. “People are arriving on that day.”
The capital campaign has raised about 80% of the $4.2 million project to date. That doesn’t include added costs, such as $123,000 to bury the broadband cable when the tree cover dashed the original plan to string it aerially. Neither does it include a much-needed upgrade to the parking lot.
Still, if the $1 million survives the budget process, it would “close the campaign,” Kelsey said. “We absolutely need this money.”
Kelsey said he asked for the donation and made sure the state knew the economic impact that Peninsula Players Theatre has on Door County: Some 40,000 individuals attend its five plays/musicals during its 18-week season between June and October. The theater also contributes to the local arts scene, which helps to create a quality of life that’s important to recruiting and retaining people to work and live in Door County.
“If we want to attract people, we have to have the amenities to keep them,” Kelsey said.
Department of Natural Resources Projects: $19,087,400
Almost $50 million of Evers’ building projects are proposed for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and close to half of that money would go to DNR properties within Door County as follows.
• $6,103,000 to replace the public-entrance visitor station at Peninsula State Park. The existing visitor station was constructed in 1953 and is currently located just off Highway 42 in downtown Fish Creek. The facility has been expanded twice, but the park has seen visitation grow 74% over the last 25 years.
The new visitor station would be located adjacent to Nelson’s Point Day Use Area, a little less than a mile north of the existing visitor station, and it would be considered the headquarters for park operations. As such, it would be ADA accessible and have public restrooms, a meeting room and secure office space for staff.
• $6,060,000 for the Potawatomi State Park observation tower. Built in 1931, the tower is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The tower was closed in 2017 because of public-safety concerns.
From then until now, the vast majority of local support has favored the tower’s repair. The Evers administration, however, has remained firm that it will not repair it without also giving people with all abilities the opportunity to experience the view from the 75-foot tower. Toward that end, this amount of money would repair the existing structure and construct an attached helical ramp.
• $1,360,300 for Peninsula State Park’s Eagle Tower parking and entrance station.
• $1,070,500 combined for two projects at Whitefish Dunes State Park: one to reconstruct beach access for visitors and emergency responders, and the other to resurface a gravel walking trail.
• $3,571,600 for Peninsula State Park for the renovation of toilet and shower buildings in the Tennison Bay campground.
• $922,000 for Peninsula State Park for the Nicolet Beach boat launch breakwall/pier replacement.
• $3,122,000 for Rock Island State Park for the historical boat house breakwall/pier replacement.