League of Wisconsin Municipalities agrees Janesville fire station petition would be invalid

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Marcia Nelesen
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

JANESVILLE--The executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities said an attorney at the organization agrees a petition to force the Janesville City Council to rescind its decision to build a $9 million fire station would be invalid.

Resident Bill McCoy has announced he will distribute petitions in an attempt to force the council to rescind its decision.

Janesville City Attorney Wald Klimczyk on Tuesday said McCoy's petition would be void as a petition for direct legislation.

Klimczyk said the subject matter of the petition is administrative in nature, not legislative. Klimczyk believes state statutes do not allow a petition to reverse a council decision.

A petition for direct legislation forces the council to either accept the petition or to put the issue on the ballot during next general election. The petition must contain signatures that represent 15 percent of those who voted in the last governor's election.

If approved by voters, the referendum is binding.

Even if the petition is void, that doesn't mean residents don't have other tools to convince the council to reverse its decision, said Jerry Deschane, executive director of the league.

“There's all sorts of grassroot things people can do when they are upset with government,” Deschane said.

For example, McCoy could present petitions to the council as an advisory measure, he said.

McCoy said Tuesday he would continue with his plans to file a petition for direct legislation. He hopes to begin circulating them by the end of this week.

The city council in April voted 6-1 to build a fire station that would cost no more than $9 million. The decision was controversial because of the cost and because it forces the demolition of 12 homes.

McCoy said people are upset about the closed meeting in November when the council approved the location of the fire station.

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