City to distribute TID funds, room tax revenue down in 2018

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Surrounded by a large turnout of his fellow Prairie du Chien firefighters, John Yager holds the framed resolution presented to him by the common council Tuesday night for 55 years of dedicated service to the department. (Photo by Correne Martin)

Fireman commended for 55 years of service

By Correne Martin

The Prairie du Chien Common Council approved distribution of tax increment district (TID) funds, commended a fireman for 55 years of service, learned 2018 motel room tax revenue was down, and took the final step in getting Crossing Rivers Health the entrance driveway it’s wanted since the new hospital was built. 

TID 4 was created in Prairie du Chien on July 14, 1994, and labeled the Prairie Industries TID. A project plan for it was also developed that year. According to the terminating resolution the council approved during its meeting Tuesday, all TID 4 projects were completed in the prescribed expiration time. That expenditure period was by July 2016, said Kristin Hanson, a financial adviser from PFM Asset Management in Milwaukee.

Before terminating it, the council had the option to utilize the funds—approximately $99,000—for affordable housing and city housing stock improvements. However, a committee involving City Administrator Chad Abram, City Planner Garth Frable, City Clerk Tina Fuller, a Vierbicher Associates consultant and Hanson recommended the council choose to close it. 

“We decided among us that the amount is not a lot,” Abram explained. “I also talked to (school administrator) Bob Smudde, and he said, while the school would like more enrollment, that amount wouldn’t necessarily mean a boom in new family homes. So we thought, we’d hand it back to the taxpayers in good faith.”

In closing the TID, the city will distribute excess increment collected by proportionate shares among affected taxing jurisdictions, which include the city, school district, Crawford County and Southwest Tech. 

Fuller estimated Tuesday that the city’s portion of that amount would be around 30 percent. That money will go into the city’s general fund unless the council decided to earmark it for a specific purpose.

Abram said the council will have a similar discussion in September to discuss terminating TID 6, aka the Cabela’s TID. 

Firefighter retires

After dedicating 55 years to the Prairie du Chien Fire Department, John Yager has decided to retire from his position as a city firefighter.

“It’s been a privilege,” he said when honored with a resolution by the common council Tuesday. 

Yager began his career with the fire department in March of 1964. According to the resolution, he “responded to a cosmic variety of calls during the day, night and weekends regardless of weather conditions.” During his career, he was also involved in community outreach to both young children and grown adults on the importance of fire safety, thus creating a safer environment for all Prairie du Chien residents.

“I actually started going to fires in October the year before but I hadn’t had a physical and they wouldn’t let me on,” Yager laughed, telling the council. “I had just gotten out of the National Guard. Larry Yeomans was in the Guard with me and on the fire department, and he suggested I join the department. So I did.”

All in all, Yager said he’s felt his fellow firemen have stuck together for the betterment of the community. “I’m just here and did my part to help my community,” he said. 

Room tax revenue down

Chamber CEO Bob Moses was present at this week’s council meeting to share details of the annual tourism council and hotel/motel room tax report with the group.

The room tax was created by the common council in 1991, according to a council memo from Abram. The tourism council was created by the chamber at its Feb. 19, 1991, meeting. The room tax, which was originally set at 3.5 percent, increased to 5 percent in 2015 and increased to 6 percent in December 2010. 

The memo noted that the city has audited room tax revenue numbers from 2004 through today. The 2018 numbers, down just over $50,000, have raised concern. 

Moses said he feels the reasons for this decrease are there was more “moisture” on the island in 2018, Country on the River was not held, Marquette Road was under construction from April through November, and Oktoberfest was affected by heavy winds and rain. 

Hospital to get entrance way

For more than three years, the city has been working with Crossing Rivers Health toward obtaining a driveway entrance directly to the front of the hospital, Frable reminded the council Tuesday. 

Currently, anyone going to the medical center must enter on Selch Road, by Wal-Mart, turn and drive past the Nathan Plaza strip mall. This roadway, finally approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and Bureau of Aeronautics, will provide a straight shot to the hospital.

“The access off the highway to the hospital was in the runway protection area,” Frable said.

The council’s approval Tuesday was essentially the last step, he said, before Crossing Rivers can go ahead and “put out for bids” to construct the private drive. The OK allows for acquisition of an airport clear zone and avigation easements, which allow for the municipal airport to use the air space above it. 

Frable explained that the hospital owns the land and will maintain the new surface. No money is being exchanged through this process. In addition to the roadway, lighting will be placed along it and a hospital sign installed at the entrance.

Other business

•The council approved city involvement in a program called Jobs for Progress, through which two staff over the age of 55 will be brought into city hall for on-the-job training. They will start soon, each work up to 29 hours per week and can be employed up to four years, personnel committee chair Karen Solomon said. Involvement in this will result in no cost for the city, as wages will be paid by the federal program, so these individuals can acquire skills they can take forward to get a full-time job elsewhere. 

Abram said this will help city hall, which is down one person from years past. 

•Councilman at-large Edward Hayes-Hall was commended for his time serving on the council since 2014. After a resolution was approved saluting his service, Hayes-Hall said he’s thoroughly enjoyed being an integral voice providing fair and respectful representation to constituents. 

“I came to this country 25 years ago on a work visa, met a gal and had a couple kids. When I decided to become a citizen, I had to take a civics test,” he stated. “It’s been an interesting experience living that civics test every day at the city level.”

Jaaren Riebe was appointed and sworn in after Tuesday’s meeting to become the new alderman at-large, replacing Hayes-Hall, who chose not to run for re-election this spring.

•The council approved the sale of vacant property following a public hearing finding no public need for a 50x120 piece of land along First Street, near the Highway 18 Bypass. The transaction will be for $1,500 to Tom and Kayla Ingham, who’ve lived adjacent to the land for over six years.

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