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Congratulations to the majority of the Muskego Council who stepped up to the plate the other night, did the job they were elected to do, and made an important decision for the future of the community by approving moving forward with the lake park purchase. As presented I saw that this process has taken place over the last six months with a wealth of public input opportunities and it sure appears that democracy was able to play out as it should. While the night of the vote came out with a vocal opposition it sure makes me wonder where everyone was the past 4 public input opportunities they had. Furthermore, you’re able to contact your elected official and offer your opinion at any time during those 6 months as well? The main points of the opposition were as follows along with a look into each one:
1. Shouldn't spend money during these economic tough times: It was mentioned a couple times during the past meetings that the city has a bunch of mechanisms to pay for the park without using future tax levy money. $2,000,000 from the landfill fund is not tax levy money and that money has a contract behind it with the city that it should be used for quality of life issues. Another $2,000,000 in monies already borrowed from the past. Also, it was stated that the city has $750,000 more in residual funds that can pay off a principal right away as well. The City of Muskego Council has not raised taxes the past several years, the city has one of the best bond ratings you can have, and the city is in one of the best fiscal health’s around. Spending money during weak times is what smart business owners do and I can’t think of a better time to spend money especially when real estate is as cheap as it has been in the last decade. Furthermore, this is for a future quality of life issue for the next century which far outweighs needing a guaranteed return on investment immediately. When has a park ever been required to payback monies to the community anyway? When have we ever expected the City to make monies on the services they provide. Last I’ve seen Muskego City Hall is here to provide services to its residents to present the best high quality of life possible within the means of the tax base. It seems as if this park purchase fits the same service category as the city ensuring that police are at my doorstep in an emergency situation. Again, a quality of life investment!
2. Shouldn’t pay this much money: How is paying less than market values too much? I would think that the Council did their due diligence during their closed sessions to negotiate a bottom line price that they were comfortable with. It is fairly obvious that they did since the resolution was less acreage than originally appraised and the offering price ultimately was $125,000 less than the assessed values of the properties and $180,000 less than the appraised values of the properties. From what I know it is up to the municipality to rely on their appraisals and work back from there, which they did, to come to an economical price. I understand that paying over $3.5 million is a lot of money for two properties but where else on the lake would you be able to get over 4 acres for that cost? All other properties along Janesville Road and the Little Muskego Lake are 30’ to 50’ in width. You would have to put together 5-7 properties to amount the same sizes and lake frontage as this proposal and it would definitely cost more money.
3. What is the plan and costs for the park in the future: All this talk about first needing to know the future costs of building and maintaining a park is ridiculous. If you do the research you will see that the City of Muskego does not, and has not, developed their parks this way in the past. The city outlines their needs for a park and purchases the land. Once purchased, they then involve the public and various committees to outline a future development plan for that park and derive what the costs for building and maintaining the park are. It is then up to the Council to phase out the development of that park based upon the city’s fiscal capabilities from year to year. How can you tell the Parks Board to tell you what will be in a park and how much it will cost before you have even purchased the property and before you even know how much money the Council is willing to spend on the development of a park from year to year? People spoke that they at least wanted estimates and from what I heard the Council received those estimates from their staff during their closed sessions so they were all well aware of possible future development and maintenance costs. The Council is well aware that they will have control of how the park is developed and how much they want to spend on developing and maintaining the park in the future from year to year. There were over $4.5 million in funds presented by the city’s finance staff at the meeting on the web and the city is only paying $3.55 million initially for the purchase of the lands. Even if a park development costs $500,000 it sure appears that there is ways for the city to pay for this to without again affect any tax levy. Lastly, did you know that this way of first purchasing land and developing after is what took place with the City’s Park Arthur and most recently the Borst Conservation land purchase. I thought it was funny that Alderman Soltysiak argued that while he is for a lake park he was against the purchase until he had more info on what the future plan was for the park and its costs. This is the same Alderman who pushed forth buying the Borst Conservation lands, in his district, at a price of $1.2 million which happens to be $830,000 over the assessed value of those lands. And by the way Dan, there is no development plan in place at the time you approved that purchase either????
4. We need more information and make the process more transparent: This last one is beyond me. While it was great to see all the people out on Tuesday night I sat there and wondered where everyone was back in the meetings from August 23-Jan 10. People need to speak throughout the process and get their questions answered. With so many opportunities today there is no excuse. After reviewing the City’s website it appears I could make contacts to my elected officials by calling, emailing, coming to one of the 5 meetings with public input, and even posting on Facebook or tweeting! The process really can’t be more transparent if you ask the questions and keep yourself involved in the process.
Again, congratulations Muskego for taking a leap for the future generations of your great city. I can’t wait for the future where I can walk down the new Janesville Road and come to the beautiful lakefront. Hopefully, in time, we can all enjoy some great events here as well that will help Muskego thrive and make people know, and remember, that Muskego is a beautiful lake community that everyone can enjoy.