The Poynette Village Board finalized the budget for next year at their regular meeting on Nov. 11.

The village approved a general property tax levy of $1,609,659, which is a 0.67% increase over the 2019 tax levy. The budget includes increases in tax contributions to the general fund, library fund and debt service fund but has been balanced with cuts in contributions to the capital outlay fund.

Village Administrator Martin Shanks recommended adding some additional projects to meet the allowable expenditure limit by the state to avoid losing state revenue. The village is able to spend an additional $36,000 and Shanks recommended the following changes:

  • Transferring $27,000 from the general fund to the capital fund
  • Painting village hall hallways ($4,000)
  • Purchase and replace aging downtown decorations ($2,000)
  • Installing a mop sink upstairs in the village hall ($3,000)

Poynette is increasing its fire district contributions as well by around $31,000, an 18.97% increase over last year. There is also an increase in water, sewer and stormwater utility fund expenses as the village plans large-scale projects for 2020, which will be funded through a 2019 General Obligation (GO) Note. These include:

  • Park Street extension — $484,100
  • Phosphorous improvements to wastewater treatment plant — $325,000
  • New water meters — $22,755
  • Complete a water systems analysis — $10,000

The Go Note will not be covering a replacement of Washington Street culverts and pipes ($144,300) for the stormwater utility or the removal of the old water tower infrastructure ($15,000) for water utility.

The village is also planning on sidewalk and trail improvements, with Colby subdivision sidewalks and a North Street path from Main Street to Highway 51. Along with the sidewalk project is a plan to improve the trail running from Seward Street to Colby Park. The village was approved for a $133,000 DNR grant for this part of the project, which will cover 50% of the cost..

The plan is to add a four-foot concrete sidewalk on the east side of West Seward Street and part of the south side of Colby Boulevard, Sunset Drive and Grant Street. The project was proposed so that elementary students would be able to walk to the new school at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year without having to be bussed from the Colby subdivision.

President Diana Kaschinske said she felt like the village was not fully completing this project because the sidewalk on Colby did not go all the way to Main Street. In a previous meeting, the board discussed this was the case because there was a garage that would have interfered.

During public comment in an August Village Board meeting, residents spoke about how some people have purchased lots on Colby and Seward because they don’t have sidewalks and believes the money could be spent better elsewhere to improve the village.

Kaschinske said the sidewalk project should wait another year before being started. Trustee Terri Fiore said she was never in favor of the sidewalks and preferred students to be bussed. Trustee Jerry Burke said this project has already been thoroughly discussed and the board needs to move forward.

“The part that makes me aggravated about the sidewalks is that we had public comment from the people that come here,” Kaschinske said. “75% of the people said they didn’t want it. Why do we even have public comment if we don’t listen to them? And if we’re going to put a sidewalk in, put it in right.”

The Village Board voted to approve the budget with Shank’s recommendations while also removing a $2,000 expense designated for the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation that was approved at the Oct. 14 meeting.

Burn site

The Village Board discussed two claims they received from property owners this past summer about damages to their property related to the burn site off Academy Street.

Kevin Myers and Kevin Marquardt both submitted claims and estimates for damages to vehicles and decks. A Poynette police report shows Police Chief Eric Fisher investigating Marquardt’s residence where Marquardt said ash was damaging his deck and may need replacement. The report says Fisher noticed ash on the deck, chairs and roof.

The total estimate of the claims submitted by Myers and Marquardt was $4,122.61. Claims were submitted to the village’s insurance company, The League of Wisconsin Municipalities Mutual Insurance (LWMMI). After review, LWMMI determined the claims should be disallowed due to Wisconsin Statute 893.80, which gives the village “discretionary immunity”.

An investigation from LWMMI determined Poynette was conducting the burn within standard procedures and “the resulting damage is a consequence of the Public Works Department properly doing their job in performing the burn for the public’s benefit,” according to a memo.

Shanks presented three options to the Village Board for moving forward with this. They could pay the claim in full, the board could disallow the claims and support the decision of LWMMI or they could take no further action and rely on the decision of the insurance company.

Trustee Chris Polzer asked if they could see if the insurance company will pay for the claims. Shanks said they could but isn’t sure if they will agree to it. Polzer said while the insurance does offer them immunity, it would be the right decision to pay the claims.

Shanks said the board should consider other claims that may come forward if they decided to pay for this. He said they should also consider this as a precedent for other activities that fall under discretionary immunity.

Public Works Director Scott Gorman said he is going to have a hard time using the burn site in the future if the board chose to pay this claim. He said residents have been complaining about the smoke and ash since he arrived in 2004 and he will need to look at an alternative burn site location.

“I don’t like to burn stuff,” Gorman said. “It’s going to be a huge transition but hopefully we can come up with some good alternatives.”

Shanks said he was going to talk with Marquardt and Myers about their final bills before coming back to the board with a prepared resolution to approve or deny the claims.

In other business, the Village Board approved the following:

  • Adopting sewer utility rates and adjusting fee schedule
  • Agreement for Municipal Plan Examination and Inspection Services with General Engineering Company
  • Payment application 4 for the West Mill Street Utility and Street Improvement Project for $37,764.53

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