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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Town Pound Residents Approve Tax Hike for Bridge Project

Residents of the Town of Pound voted to approve a tax levy increase to fund upcoming bridge projects during a special meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 18.

The resolution, which was passed by a 24-7 vote, would allow the town to increase its tax levy by $40,000 to "offset the town's share of the cost of replacing the bridges on N 5th Road and N 1st Road during the next several years and to increase the town road construction budget in forthcoming years due to increased costs."

Prior to the voting, Town Chairman Jerry Heroux ran through background information on the resolution and the future bridge projects for the 25 members of the public in attendance. According to Heroux, both bridges in question were inspected and given ratings of 29 out of 100, making them the lowest ranking bridges in all of Marinette County.

That low of a rating also made them eligible for federal funding. Heroux noted that Marinette County Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen and others had recommended waiting until the ratings were low enough to received federal funding. Now, 80 percent of the project will be federally funded while the Town of Pound will be on the hook for 20 percent of the funding upfront. However, Heroux stated that 10 percent of the overall funding would be reimbursed to the town from Marinette County bridge aid through the State of Wisconsin following the completion of the projects.

"They've been inspected for a long time before I was town chairman. The ratings were always low with a recommendation to replace them, but always with the caveat to wait until they are low enough for federal aid," Heroux said. "And it's just this last year, 2015, that the inspections went down. I brought it to the board's attention and Ray Palonen said "hey, you're eligible for federal funding.' So really at the beginning of 2016 we put this all in motion."

At the meeting, a list of 2015 municipal tax rates for the 25 municipalities in Marinette County was distributed to highlight what affect the proposed tax levy increase would have. In 2015, residents of the Town of Pound paid a municipal tax of $116.85 per $100,000 of valuation, ranking the town 20th out of the 25 Marinette County municipalities and 13th out of 18th towns in the county. The proposed tax levy hike would increase that number from $116.85 to approximately $156.85 per $100,000 of valuation of a resident's tax bill. This would move the Town of Pound to a ranking of 17th or 18th out of the 25 Marinette County municipalities and 10th or 12th out of the 18 county towns, depending on how other municipalities' tax rates change.

Heroux also said the total cost approved for the two bridge projects is a maximum of $1.2 million. However, he stressed this is a maximum that was recommended to the town to make sure they take full advantage of the federal funding. If the projects were to go over the maximum amount budgeted, the town would on the hook for the total costs over that designated amount. Therefore, Heroux said, it is better to set the maximum high to avoid this happening.

With the total cost at a maximum of $1.2 million, the town will be on the hook for $240,000. The $40,000 increase in annual tax revenue would go to offset this cost over the next several years

Heroux also cautioned that if the tax levy increase was voted down, the town would either have to borrow money or significantly cut roadwork over the next 4-5 years to fund the bridge projects. When the town is reimbursed a maximum of $120,000, likely starting in 2021, that extra money would go toward additional funding for road construction projects.

Following Heroux's presentation, members of the public present were able to provide their input on the tax levy increase and the proposed bridge projects. Glenn Broderick expressed some skepticism with the proposed resolution, stating he wished the board would have included a list of potential road projects for the public at the meeting. To the latter point, board members noted that such a list is available to the public upon request.

"This won't be the last tax increase the board asks for," Broderick said, who was also skeptical of this tax levy increase staying permanent after the completion of the bridge projects.

Heroux responded that the electors could always come back to the board at a later date and vote for a resolution to lower the municipal tax rate.

Other public comments were more positive of the proposed resolution, which included Dennis Tackmier offering his support of the tax levy increase. He noted the importance of being able to keep up with the costs of road construction as one reason to support the resolution, arguing the town could ill afford a decrease in its roadwork funding.

"I counted the potholes on my road, by the way. There's 62 of them," Tackmier said. "That's my two cents. I think that this tax increase is very necessary."

Following the completion of public comments, an anonymous paper ballot vote was conducted, with 24 of those in attendance voting in favor of the resolution and seven voting against it.

The state must now be informed of the decision, after which the projects can now move forward to their next steps. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will put out the bids sometime between mid-2018 and 2020, Heroux said, with the state awarding the bid and then informing the town. Construction is slated to occur in 2020.


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