Waunakee voters may see referendum questions related to both school and village capital projects when they vote in November, one asking to borrow for a new middle school and the other for an aquatic facility.
At their May 16 meeting, the Waunakee Village Board came to a conclusion about the referendum’s timing, along with the scope of the pool project. Board members had been discussing an August referendum, but shifted on Monday.
“As far as August goes, I’m in no hurry,” said Village President Chris Zellner, noting that the largest numbers of voters turn out in November.
Trustee Gary Herzberg agreed voter turnout for the proposal is important.
“That’s what we’re all trying to get here, is to make sure everybody gets a voice,” Herzberg said.
The board also decided on the project scope, choosing the outdoor-only pool design with the ability to add an indoor aquatic center at a later date. At their May 2 meeting, the board debated whether the referendum question should ask the community to choose between the outdoor and indoor option, but three of the six members felt the outdoor option was more affordable.
Trustee Nila Frye cautioned that the more expensive indoor-outdoor option could burden the village financially. While older adults have expressed a desire for an indoor, warm-water facility, an outdoor pool would be used by children and other adults. A privately owned swimming facility, Little Strokes, also offers warm water sessions for adults. Frye suggested the village work with the owners to offer programs, the way it arranges public figure skating sessions at the Ice Pond, to save costs.
“I don’t want to be put in a position down the road of deciding what we have to give up because we put a pool in,” Frye said. “I don’t want to have to give up the quality of services we give to the citizens of Waunakee; I don’t want to have to look at possibly cutting services at the community center or road reconstruction, or our emergency services. And when I heard the finance report, it really made me look at this carefully.”
Village staff began the discussion by presenting options for a survey to learn the public’s preference for an aquatic facility. But the survey would require at least seven to eight weeks, leaving little time to meet the deadline for getting a referendum question on the November election ballot.
Board members also wanted ample time to educate the public about the project scope and costs.
Each of the trustees expressed their own concerns. Sam Kaufmann said the referendum question should include the location for any proposed facility. The board has said the pool will be built on either existing parkland or future parkland, eliminating extra cost for site acquisition.
But other trustees noted that the location will be on one of the edges of town, forcing some community members to drive to it.
Joe Zitzelsberger pointed out that the initial survey given to the public during the design process failed to ask voters if they would prefer no pool be built. In the late fall, when the village hired the aquatic center consulting firm Counsilman-Hunsaker to provide design options, the survey was intended to find the community’s preferences, Zellner said. Voters can vote against the project in the referendum.
At one point, Zellner suggested a spray pad be included in the project for the village’s north side, but as the board began to look for a motion, he retracted it. Waunakee service organizations might want to take on fundraising for such a project, Herzberg said.
As they began to discuss the referendum question, Zellner asked if voters should be given a choice. It could ask for a preference for either an outdoor pool with the option to expand or an indoor-outdoor facility.
Herzberg said voters should be asked just one question.
Frye agreed, saying one question would be better than two or three “and confusing somebody.”
“I would support the outdoor with the ability to expand,” Frye added.
Trustee Phil Willems, who had advocated for offering voters the choice, said, “I give up. I think if you’ve got the room, you do it right now,” referring to the larger indoor-outdoor project.
Looking at the next step, Zellner focused on the educational campaign, saying voters should know the cost and have information about the design.
Community Services Director Sue McDade noted that the design will be similar to the one provided by Counsilman-Hunsaker last fall. The site chosen for the pool will need to be large enough to accommodate an indoor addition to the outdoor aquatic center, McDade said. The design includes two vessels with separate controls, offering cooler lap lanes in one and the ability for warmer water in the other.
Administrative staff will work on a question to present to the voters and then begin to design the marketing campaign. Information on the project and the costs is available on the village’s website, waunakee.com.
As for the village’s referendum coinciding with the school district’s, Zellner said he and Village Administrator Todd Schmidt had met with School District Administrator Randy Guttenberg, who indicated he was not concerned and each project should stand on its own.
Zellner added that if the school referendum were to fail in November, another would likely be held in April.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board:
-passed a proclamation honoring former Village Trustee Bill Ranum.
-approved the annual update to park impact fees.
-adopted a resolution recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month and to fly the Pride flag at municipal buildings. The resolution was identical to the one the board adopted in 2021, but Zellner said he wanted to read it each year “because I want to draw more attention to it versus less attention.”
The resolution notes that the village “recognizes the month of June as LGBTQ Pride Month and will fly the rainbow flag at the Village Hall, Public Library, and Village Center during June to inspire equity, create alliances, celebrate diversity, and establish a safe environment in our community.”