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Waupun braces for capital project funding

April 20, 2018 GMT

WAUPUN -- Even though the city of Waupun has appropriated more money for street improvements, it cannot take on the biggest challenges without the help of some borrowing.

That was a topic of discussion at the city council meeting Tuesday night as a capital improvements plan was distributed to council members by city treasurer Jared Oosterhouse. While this year’s projects are covered by the annual tax levy (increased annually to include overdue street projects), not every project will be “pay as you go” with available funds.

“The board of public works approved this five-year street plan,” said Director of Public Works Jeff Daane. “We as a city need to try and keep up with the maintenance items of streets, whether it be mill and overlays, seal coating and things like that to try to lengthen their lives. We met with the utilities commission to see if there were ways we could cut some costs and we did come up with a few streets that were mill and overlays (blacktopping to extend their use without completely reconstructing them).”

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Mill and overlay project generally range from $125,000 to $175,000, with seat coating averaging about $35,000.

The projects for 2018 include Walker Street (from Pleasant Street to Brown Street) and Franklin Street (from Brandon Street to Division Street).The total cost of $131,314 will be taken from the city’s general fund.

“It’s a nice plan,” Daane said. “It’s something we’re stuck with, but we need to look at how we’re going to finance it.”

When it comes to Madison Street (from Bridge to Libby streets), however, it’s a different matter. Instead of doing the street a block or two at a time over four or five years, Daane suggested doing it all at once. The cost of that project is currently estimated at $3.2 million.

“Instead of detouring around that road for that length of time and dragging it out, borrowing will allow us to get some bigger projects done.”

The plan anticipates the next major borrowing to occur in 2023. Projects it may cover include the reconstruction of Newton Avenue and Rock Avenue, mill and overlay of Fond du Lac street (from Main Street to Rounsville Street) and Edgewood Drive (from Brandon Street to Summer Street). The total borrow for those projects comes to $2.4 million.

After that, the plan calls for borrowing money in 2026 with a number of street and parking lot reconstruction projects totaling $2.9 million.

In between major bond issues, city mill and overlay projects will be completed with funds on hand.

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“This gives us some potential, some good options as far as getting some of those larger projects done and paid for,” said Daane. “In between we’ll be doing mill and overlays, which will get a pretty good chunk of road done at a fairly reasonable cost.”

How does the city expect to pay for these major projects?

“The adjustment (increase) we made to the mill rate last year was about 12 percent,” said City Administrator/Director of Economic Development Kathy Schlieve. “The idea there was to get us positioned to move into a major reconstruction project every other year. We are looking at ways to control costs, but there are improvements that need to be made to maintain our infrastructure. Previously we said to you that borrowing is not a solution for roads, but now we find that a small level of borrowing is our best option for getting those major projects done. Roads are and will continue to be a challenge for our community.”

Schlieve said that grants are no longer available to help fund the major projects.

Oosterhouse said, “That levy increase is a big step and is helping us significantly, but for these larger projects it will take borrowing. If we go to a borrowing philosophy, we’ll do more work in a year and we’ll borrow less frequently.

Daane warned that costs are increasing, so postponing them is not a good option for keeping streets in good repair.

For now the council agreed to move forward with the engineering for Madison Street, and promising to revisit financing options as costs are better known.

Plans are moving forward to join the Beaver Dam Municipal Court versus contracting with Dodge County or Fond du Lac County circuit courts. The city anticipates lower costs, and less officer time expended if that option is pursued.