Fire station, highway construction are hot topics in Milton
Candidates for Milton city council, mayor, town board and town chairman gathered for the event hosted by Milton Kiwanis.
Here’s a sample of the questions and answers.
Three-year councilman Tom Chesmore is challenging Mayor Nate Bruce. It’s Bruce’s first challenge since he was elected 10 years ago.
Q: What do you think about the possibility of a new fire station, police station and public works building?
Chesmore: “Somewhere along the line, I would say probably within the next three to five years, we as a community are really going to have to bite the bullet and take care of building a building to house our fire department, to house our public works and to house our police department, maybe all in the same building.”
Bruce: The public works building is no longer suitable, and the fire station is not in a good location. The city should do a study about replacing those facilities and possibly even moving City Hall to one large campus.
“I think right now we should be thinking about it. This is not the time to do it. In down economic times, we want other people to spend money, not us.”
Q: How should the city position itself for economic development?
Bruce: The city should do its best to position itself for development even during the recession. Its three tax incremental financing districts are in great shape. The city should take advantage of the reconstruction of highways 59 and 26 to attract new buildings, including a hotel and a nice restaurant.
Chesmore: “What I’d like to see for development around Highway 59 is businesses that want to locate around the city or in the industrial park that would be to pull people off of the highway.” Those businesses could attract customers to existing businesses in the heart of the city.
With three open seats, incumbents Dave Schumacher and Maxine Striegl are running. Council President Sharon Rozelle is not seeking re-election. Brett Frazier and Jeremy Hoff are running as write-in candidates, but Hoff did not attend the forum.
Q: What should be considered as the new Highway 59 comes into the city?
Frazier: It’s scary knowing people will drive past the city without stopping when highways 59 and 26 are rebuilt. The city should focus on making itself a destination, not a stop on the way somewhere else. Verona and Stoughton are good examples of destination cities.
Schumacher: It’s important to plan business around the new Highway 59/26 interchange that enhances the whole city and doesn’t hurt existing businesses.
Striegl: “As far as the bypass, I don’t think we need to or should put all our attention at building out at that area. I would like to see more business go out at Parkview (Drive) and on Merchant Row and fill up the empty spaces there.”
Q: What are your views on the fire station and public works building?
Schumacher: “I believe we need to look at the facilities and where the best place in the city to place them would be, then decide if we want to combine them all.”
Striegl: Addressing the fire station and public works building is a top priority. “We can’t have all this growth and then not have the services available. They (public servants) are doing an excellent job with what they have now, but I’d really like to see them have something different.”
Frazier: “If my house is on fire, I need the fire department to come, and I need them to have the right facilities to get that job done.” He favors combining city services onto a central campus.
Beth Drew is challenging incumbents Sue Gavigan and John Traynor for two spots on the town board. Ryan Houfe is challenging incumbent Bryan Meyer for town chairman. Houfe was unable to attend, so Meyer answered questions with the town board candidates.
Q: What do you think of the town’s efforts to create a Smart Growth plan?
Traynor: As a fifth-generation farmer, Traynor believes preserving farmland is important. “I think that we need to preserve as much of the original township as possible.”
Drew: “I believe that without goals, we become stagnant, and I believe that it’s very necessary to plan.” The town has to balance the need to preserve farmland with residential growth.
Gavigan: “It’s very hard with these Smart Growth plans to see what’s going to happen in 10 or 15 years ... Everything is going to fluctuate, because we can’t see the future.”
Meyer: The town expects to hold public hearings on the plan in May and adopt it in May or June. “Goals are critical, but one of the facts and realities of goals is you need to review your goals from time to time … The important thing is you have a plan in place.”
Q: What are your thoughts concerning a new fire station and new equipment?
Drew: The joint fire department has excellent staff but its facility is in terrible repair. The fire commission should look at potential grants for a new or remodeled building. “It just needs to be approached cautiously.”
Gavigan: The fire commission should apply for stimulus money for a new fire station. If it doesn’t get a lot of grants, it should consider instituting a fire district so costs are shared more equally.
Meyer: The city and town need to plan ahead to make sure they can have continued good fire service in the future. “We all know that at some point, whether it’s months or years down the road, all of our equipment needs to be replaced eventually.”
Traynor: The fire station is cramped and in need of replacement. “One thing we need to keep in mind is not only where the money’s going to come from but where the building is going to be placed.”
Houfe, the town chairman candidate who couldn’t attend, sent a letter to read at the forum. He said he’s easy to work with and would bring a “relationship-building mindset to the table.” He said, as a businessman, he would bring modern business values to the town.
“I am an advocate for not raising taxes, but at the same time we know they will go up,” he wrote. “I hope to bring a reasonable budget to the townspeople.”