Wisconsin Rapids transportation service could raise $500,000 a year

WISCONSIN RAPIDS — City leaders are focusing on the final details needed to create a new utility that would reform parts of the city’s road funding.

The Wisconsin Rapids Common Council voted 4 to 3 on Tuesday for the goal of raising $500,000 through a proposed ride service. The vote sets the stage for a final version of the ordinance to be presented to city council in the coming months.

Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Shane Blaser said a $500,000 cap on revenue generated by the new utility would equate to about $20 more per year for homeowners. For non-residential properties, fees vary depending on usage, size, and volume of traffic to the property.

Blaser said the city will seek public comment on the new utility’s revenue target in the coming weeks, posting information on the city’s website and elsewhere. The actual utility creation ordinance will need to go to city council for two readings, tentatively in March and April, before council can vote to pass or reject the proposal.

The proposed utility comes in response to residents’ refusal against special assessments imposed on their properties when the city rebuilds the road in front of their properties and hands them a bill for their part of the project. The creation of the utility is also influenced by the goal of city leaders to reduce the amount of borrowing the city takes out each year to pay for road projects.

Another proposed idea was to collect enough utility fees to end borrowing for the city’s road reconstruction projects, creating a utility budget of about $2.7 million. The current revenue target of $500,000 would replace the roughly $300,000 a year the city collects from special assessments on properties as well as moving funding for the city’s asphalt resurfacing under the utility.

City staff are finalizing the model under which property owners will have their utility rates set for the amount of traffic coming and going from their properties, according to a city memo.

The split vote came as some council members felt the concept of a public transit service would be abused by future city leaders and burdensome to residents or that the proposed funding target was too low.

RELATED:Rollout of new Wisconsin Rapids transit service could be delayed until spring as officials seek more detailed cost estimates

RELATED:Here’s how a proposed utility for Wisconsin Rapids Roads would work as it nears the public hearing

City Council member Matt Zacher said he would not support public service in any form because it would create a new method by which future iterations of city government could continue to raise taxes and make more difficult life in Wisconsin Rapids. He said he initially supported the idea, but said he believed the money needed to avoid borrowing for routine road projects could be found by cutting the city’s budget.

City council member Tom Rayome was the opposite. He thought the revenue goal of $500,000 was too low.

Meanwhile, City Council member Dean Veneman said the $500,000 revenue target would be a compromise from previous ideas for the project and be less taxing on businesses and residents while ending the use of special assessments.

Contact reporter Alan Hovorka at 715-345-2252 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ajhovorka.

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