By Lisa Pett
County leaders on Monday approved sending a Capital Improvement Plan on to the full County Board next week for approval.
The Capital Improvements and Economic Development Committee gave initial approval for County Executive Patty Drier’s 2016-2021 plan. The plan had included a $240,000 acquisition in the form of a tract of land adjacent to Lake DuBay Park.
But the purchase price was a sticking point for some.
Bob Ryan, a nearby resident called the plan to purchase the 80-acre parcel “fiscally irresponsible,” adding county leaders currently had no plan in place for the park addition. He argued the purchase also removes a significant chunk of taxable land from the Town of Eau Pleine.
Jeff Presley, who chairs the county Park’s Commission, called the land a “gem”, adding the acquisition was “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
“It’s not every an every-five-year opportunity, or 10, or 100. Is there a plan? No; the plan starts after we make the purchase. Nothing can be done unless it’s approved by the county board,” Presley said. “I encourage you to leave this on [the capital improvements]. This is the only park in that area and we want to make it the best park for those residents.”
County Board Chairman Phil Idsvoog said the purchase price was “too high”, recommending the purchase be made in 2017.
The committee agreed to delay the purchase and continue negotiating with the family who owns the land.
The plan also includes removing $30 million from the 2018 budget which had been earmarked for the new justice center/county jail project. Plans to earmark $50 million for that project remain in the 2017 budget. Dreier has repeatedly said $80 million is the only price tag she’s seen for the building.
Other items remaining in the plan include: just over $588,000 for updates to the Portage County Public Library in 2016; construction of public safety radio towers estimated to cost $2.7 million, as well as various road construction projects and new county financial software.
Capital improvements are any facility or equipment improvement expenditures in excess of $25,000. Funds for approved improvement projects are added to the county’s final budget later in the year when it is determined if funding will come from taxes, fund balances or debt services.
The County Board will vote on the plan next week.