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County should support ball field lighting project

The Taylor County Board should tap into power line impact fee funds to help a local business make recreational field lighting improvements.

As part of the Arrowhead to Weston transmission line project, the county receives annual impact fee payments from American Transmission Company (ATC). The intent of the money is to be able to provide outdoor and recreational enhancement to the county.

The county has tapped into the funds for improvements for new roofs at senior centers, upgrades at community baseball fields, helping restore the Stetsonville pond, city pool improvements, courthouse emergency efficiency upgrades and trail maintenance upgrades among many other projects over the years. Under county rules, groups may request funds either in the spring or the fall with a review by the county’s finance committee and final action by the full county board either at the April or October meetings which are mandated by state law to take place. County rules require a two-thirds majority in order to agree to spending from the power line fund.

The goal of the project is to spend a total of about $40,000 to upgrade the lighting in order to host larger tournaments and other events that go into the evening hours. Given its location, Cindy’s Bar is centralized for the majority of the county population and is a natural hub of activity. The facility’s fields and volleyball court are well-utilized through the summer for benefit events and other community recreational activities.

What sets this request apart from others is who owns the fields. Other fields that received funding in the past were either municipally owned or were operated by non-profits. Cindy’s is a privately owned business.

For some members of the county finance committee, the idea of using public funds to benefit a business is a difficult pill to swallow as they worry about setting a precedent and having other businesses seeking a handout. While these concerns have some merit in a broad sense, Cindy’s Bar presents a unique situation as the last rural tavern to have an active field complex. Outdoor recreational facilities used to be much more common features in rural taverns, but once-familiar diamonds around the country have been turned into cow pastures and cornfields.

Another thing setting this request apart as being unique is the devastating impact state-ordered shutdowns had last year on taverns around the state. Small businesses in general and taverns in particular were hit hard by the shutdowns and the subsequent cancellation of events due to the pandemic.

Businesses had to utilize their reserves and seek outside financing in order to be able to reopen. Helping Cindy’s with a lighting project is a way for the county to show its support for these important members of the local economy.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for the county to be a partner on the project is because it is in its own economic self interest to do so. Improvements to the fields will translate into increased property taxes on the parcel for years to come. In addition, the county collects sales taxes on the products sold through the bar. Bigger tournaments translates into more hungry and thirsty participants which translates into more sales tax revenues going into the county’s coffers. This doesn’t even take into account the secondary benefits of travelers staying in the area or stopping at other businesses, all of which improve the economic health of the region.

Using government resources to assist in business development is nothing new in Wisconsin. State and local resources are regularly used for helping develop infrastructure or provide land for projects. Taylor County is in a unique situation to help a local business with improvements that will pay longterm dividends in economic growth and recreational activities for county residents. Members of the Taylor County Board should approve the power line funding request for Cindy’s Bar.