The City of Sturgeon Bay is moving ahead with plans to enact a half cent Premier Resort Area Tax to fund street improvements, but received a word of caution from State Representative Joel Kitchens at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s not an automatic process,” Kitchens told the council.
The tax would be applied to purchases like apparel, meals at restaurants, and most common items found at department stores. It would not apply to larger purchases such as home furnishings and automobiles.
Sturgeon Bay does not qualify as a premier resort area since 40 percent of its revenue does not come from tourism related businesses, but it can still enact the tax through another process. Residents first have to approve a referendum supporting the tax in April, then Kitchens would have to write special legislation and get it approved by the legislature.
Kitchens said it would be almost impossible to get it passed as stand alone legislation, so it would have to be put into the 2019 – 2020 budget. Then it goes to the Governor’s desk.
“It’s a big hurdle to get the Governor to not veto it,” he said, though he said it would have a reasonably good chance.
With that schedule, it’s unlikely the city will begin to see the impact of the tax on street budgets until at least 2020.
The council voted to put the tax up for referendum on the April ballot, but recognized it must make a major educational push to convince residents to raise their taxes.
Alderman David Ward said he estimates the tax would cost a household with an annual income of $75,000 less than $40 per year.
“This is a way to have other people outside our community help us pay for our roads,” said alderperson Laurel Hauser.
The discussion came after the council heard a report in the Public Works Committee Meeting from city engineer Chad Shefchik, who reiterated his concern that the city’s streets will continue to fall into disrepair. City streets are on a schedule to be resurfaced or replaced every 50 to 60 years, more than double the recommended time frame.
“We’re going to really start to see this stuff come up in the next couple of years,” Shefchik said.
“We need to get it in the range of doing 2.25 miles per year. That would get us to a 30-year replacement schedule, or we’re going to be going backwards.”
Shefchik detailed the city’s 2018 roadway improvement plan, which includes:
- Full reconstruction of 710 feet of North Fourth Avenue beginning at Delaware Street.
- Full reconstruction of Texas Street from South Ninth Avenue to South 10th Avenue.
- Mill and pavement on North 12th Avenue from Egg Harbor Road to Georgia Street. New sidewalks and trees will be installed on the east side of the road. A special assessment of $39,629 will be applied to seven parcels along the stretch to help pay for the sidewalks.
- Mill and pave North 12th Avenue from Georgia Street to Louisiana Street.
- Mill and pave North 3rd Avenue from Jefferson Street to Iowa Street.
- Mill and pave Georgia Street from North 18th Avenue to 19th Avenue.
- Pulverize and pave South 18th Avenue from Rhode Island Street to Utah Street.
- Repairs to the intersection of South Madison Avenue and Pine Street, to be completed by Memorial Day.
- Mill and pave West Hickory Street from North Duluth Avenue to North Joliet Avenue.
Those projects cover about 1.5 miles or road and will be paid with $732,762 available from the city’s budget for capital improvements. The city will also do extensive improvements to Duluth Avenue from Highway 42/57 to West Elm Street, including adding new sidewalks and bike lanes to both sides of the road.
That project will be paid for through a special borrow of $807,845. Since Duluth Avenue is actually a county road, the work is being paid for through a combination of a federal grant that covers 80 percent of costs, with the county and city splitting the remaining 20 percent.
Mayor Removes Granary Deconstruction from Agenda
At the start of the council’s regular meeting, Mayor Thad Birmingham made a motion to remove the agenda item to award the contract to dismantle, salvage and store the Granary.The council approved the motion without discussion. The mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why he removed the item from the agenda.
The move came after the Mayor had called three special meetings in late December strictly to vote to award the contract. Those meetings failed to gain a quorum. Alderpersons Kelly Catarozoli and Ron Vandertie were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Part-time Firefighters Get Pay Raise
The council approved the Personnel Committee’s recommendation to increase compensation for the city’s part-time firefighters. The monthly retainer for firefighters will rise from $100 to $150, and the annual bonus will rise from $500 to $750. Last year 8 of the department’s 11 part-time firefighters earned the bonus.
Hauser Calls to Reinstate Public Comment Session
Mayor Birmingham recently used his mayoral prerogative to remove public comment sessions from the council’s meeting agendas. On Tuesday, Hauser asked for those to be reinstated.
“It’s important to our democracy that we have public input,” Hauser said.
The council passed David Ward’s motion to consider adding a 30-minute listening session on the next agenda. After it passed, Mayor Birmingham said the he would “take it under consideration,” and added that there is no time frame for when public comment will come back. He did not say why he chose to remove it from the agendas.
In August the council voted to tear down the Granary after Jan. 1 unless a group came forward with funds or a plan to repurpose the structure. Birmingham has refused to put proposals for the Granary site on the council’s agenda, so the only time the council has heard those ideas has come during public comment sessions.
That is also when representatives from Miller Art Museum, Third Avenue Playhouse, the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society, and Door County Historian George Evenson have expressed their support for saving the structure. That has also been the time when two residents have publicly pledged $110,000 to the restoration effort.
The sessions have also been used by a much smaller number of people to express their support for tearing down the Granary.