Two newcomers face three incumbents in Milton City Council race
Juvenile probation officer Anissa Welch and retiring high school history teacher Don Vruwink are running against incumbents Brett Frazier, Maxine Striegl and David Schumacher.
Amid a pending state budget and state legislation that could crimp state funding and the ability of municipalities to raise taxes, the candidates answered the following questions:
Public works facility
Q: The city has approved borrowing $1.8 million and has spent time and money preparing for bids to build a new public works facility. It would replace the current DPW building, which is aging and lacks space. It was estimated that the project would mean a levy increase next year of at least 7.2 percent.
Given that the city now faces a possible decrease in state shared revenue and an approximate budget deficit of $225,000, is now the right time to move forward with building a new DPW building?
Schumacher: "I'd say yes. A fair amount of money and work already has been spent (on readying bond bids). The replacement of that structure is long overdue, and your construction costs aren't going to be any lower, and the same thing on borrowing for your interest on bonds. Those rates aren't going to go any lower."
Frazier: "At this point in this economy where unemployment is still high, now is not the time to be heaping more costs onto the taxpayers of Milton. We can't afford it on a household level. That's always been my position. I've been pretty clear all along that if we are going to move forward with any facility, we needed to be clear that we know where that 7 percent levy increase is coming from."
Vruwink: "I would like to see it built this year. There are provisions in the governor's new budget allowing for new spending. The building wasn't big enough 15 years ago. We've paid the upfront costs, we've got the studies done, we're looking at cheaper bids and lower interest that what we'd have gotten before. If we wait until the economy turns around, inflation's going to start taking off, and we'd be adding a lot of cost to this building."
Striegl: "Yes and no. This project has been put off and put and put off, and it's desperately needed. Right now it is the cheapest time to build this because of the lower prices to build and the low interest charges. But I would vote against it if it meant we had to cut any of our people from our police service or our public works (department). We definitely need our police department to stay full force."
Welch: "I would be very cautious about moving forward (with the DPW project). It's not the best timing. One of my main concerns is to get input from citizens. I am concerned looking at the budget figures that we're seeing now; we don't have the (state) budget from Madison. I would feel comfortable delaying it (building a new DPW) but maybe not for a prolonged amount of time."
Q: What should be the top priority for the city in terms of planning and spending?
Frazier: "Our biggest issue is the Highway 26 bypass that will fundamentally change how traffic and commerce comes into the city. I'm interested in plans for the TIF reclamation project on the Goodrich Square areas in the Parkview (business) district. We've got a handful of businesses in the Parkview business district that have seen emerging success. If we continue to invest there, we could start to have too many examples to name."
Schumacher: "In my mind, the public works building is a big goal right now. The other thing that's high in my point of view is industrial development for us. We should be looking at least for more options on more land for industry for on the city's east side. If we had a company that wanted to come in, we might not be able to accommodate it."
Welch: "Primarily, it's the budget. We have to deal with the budget. Everything is secondary until we figure out where we stand as far as what are shared revenue cuts, debt service or any costs for developments with the Goodrich Park improvements. We have to have a firm idea of what revenue we've got coming in and what can we spend."
Striegl: "The fire department and EMS department are in dire need for a new facility. Whether we build a new fire station now or later, I'd like to see some kind of building that would house a fire truck and an ambulance on the other (south) side of the railroad tracks. As we get more and more freight coming into town to the industrial park, the trains are longer and more frequent. I'd hate to have an emergency and find we can't get across to the south side."
Vruwink: "I'd like to see the Goodrich park area be developed a little faster. I think that when the bypass goes through, that area could become a benefit to all the businesses that are there. You could start walking across Highway 26 instead of with the traffic that you have now. If we develop it and lure new businesses into town, it's going to be a win-win situation for businesses."
Q: Pending state cuts and changes in how much municipalities can raise tax levies could mean tightening the city's budget and its ability to spend in 2011-12. Although the impact of any new state mandates is not yet known, where do you think the city could save money?
Welch: "All areas are on the table. We want to make sure our government is efficient, effective and smart. I'd want to work closely with (city) department heads to determine where they could save money, because I think we have a very knowledgeable group of employees for the city who could help us go through that process. I think that's a starting point."
Striegl: "That's hard to say. As far as raising the taxes, it's going to have to happen. We've been saying all along that previous counsels have kept taxes low so that we can get by with bare necessities. We don't know for sure how the state budget is going to impact us until it's put in place. But we've cut and cut on the budget. I don't know where we could cut now.
Vruwink: "If we have any purchases of equipment, maybe we have to see if we have cheaper alternatives by fixing rather than buying new. When I first started as Milton recreation (director), I renovated old equipment that was worn out. I saved about half of what it would have cost to buy new things over a two-year budget cycle. We were able to fit the needs of the community by making do with what we had."
Frazier: "For the past two years, the city has not been in the position to be offering wage increases to our employees. We need to look at this, and the other thing we have to look at very closely is the way we are staffing the city as a whole. Are we utilizing full-time and part-time staff most effectively?"
Schumacher: "It's too early to tell. When we get to the point of working on the budget to see how much we have to cut, we'll need public input on that. We've invited the public to forums at the council each month coming up. I want to hear from our people to see how they feel about the budget we're looking at."
Brett Frazier (I)
Address: 423 Rogers St., Milton.
Job: Economic development professional
Education: Milton High School graduate, attended UW-Rock County.
Community service: Board of directors, Janesville Performing Arts Center; founder/chairman Milton Independence Day Celebration Committee.
Elected posts: Milton City Council, 2009-present.
David Schumacher (I)
Address: 101 N. Clear Lake Ave., Milton.
Job: Retired General Motors supervisor
Education: Attended Northwestern College, Watertown, and Milton College.
Community service: Board of directors, Mid-Continent Railway Museum, North Freedom.
Elected posts: Milton City Council, 21 years.
Maxine Striegl (I)
Age: Declined to say
Address: 1012 Sue Lane, Milton.
Job: Former beauty salon owner and operator
Education: Whitewater High School graduate; attended Blackhawk Technical College, Janesville.
Community service: American Legion Auxiliary; the Gathering Place board of directors; volunteer EMT.
Elected posts: Milton City Council, 12 years.
Address: 24 W. Ash Lane, Milton.
Job: Teacher at Milton High School, planning retirement in June 2011.
Education: Bachelor's degree from UW-Steven's Point, 1973; master's degree from UW-Whitewater, 1983.
Community service: Optimist Club; youth coach for baseball, basketball and football; volunteer in renovation programs for Milton high school baseball field.
Elected posts: None
Address: 404 W. Madison Ave., Milton.
Job: Juvenile probation officer
Education: Bachelors degree in education from UW-Whitewater, 1990.
Community service: Volunteer at Salvation Army; ECHO; Red Cross; Milton and Rock County community gardens; Milton Independence Day committee; Milton Area Youth Center.
Elected posts: None