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Abby council votes to not pay CCEDC dues for 2020

Abbotsford will not be paying its annual dues to the Clark County Economic Development Corporation this year after the city council voted Monday to withhold funding for 2020.

The vote to deny the $3,397 in dues was a close one, 4-3, with one member absent.

Alds. Jim Weix, Roger Weideman, Brent Faber and Lori Huther voted to withhold the funding, while Alds. Dennis Kramer, Dale Rachu and Frankie Soto voted against the motion. Ald. Mason Rachu was not in attendance.

Council members who voted to deny the funding said they felt like the CCEDC has not done enough to promote business development in Abbotsford.

“I think we can get by without it. I don’t know for sure, but we’ve got a good team here that’s aggressive about getting industry in,” said Ald. Weideman, referring to city officials’ efforts to bring in new businesses.

Ald. Weix agreed.

“I don’t think we should pay that at all,” he said.

The city paid the full amount of dues last year, but according to Ald. Dale Rachu, Abbotsford has been “all over the board” on what it has paid in the past — from nothing, to half, to 100 percent.

The dues collected by the CCEDC from Clark County municipalities are based on a rate of $1.50 per resident, which means that Abbotsford and Neillsville pay the most as the largest cities in the county.

Ald. Soto, who ended up voting against the motion to deny funding, asked city administrator Dan Grady for his thoughts on what the CCEDC does for the city.

“Since I’ve been here, I don’t think they’ve done anything, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t done things behind the scenes,” he said. “I just haven’t seen it.”

At a committee of the whole meeting on July 22, CCEDC executive director Sheila Nyberg said the non-profit group helped Decorator Industries stay in Abbotsford as DI, Inc. and also helped bring A-Team Machine to the industrial park.

Nyberg said the CCEDC also provides information about Abbotsford and its industrial park to any businesses interested in relocating or starting up somewhere in Clark County.

Grady said these promotional activities would still continue for Abbotsford, even if the city does not pay its dues, because Clark County pays $30,000 every year for the CCEDC to cover the county.

“If a business wanted to locate in this area, they would still have to show that business this area because Clark County still benefits,” he said.

Ald. Kramer, a member of the CCEDC’s board of directors, spoke in favor of continuing to provide the organization with funding, pointing out all of the work it does that may not get a lot of publicity.

“I think it’s wrong not to pay anything,” he said. “That’s a real subjective thing to decide to do. You don’t see the things that happen in front of you all the time, and some of them take a long time to happen.”

The $3,397 had been included in the 2020 budget, but as a result of Monday’s council action, Grady said it will be reallocated elsewhere in the budget.

Other business

_ The council approved the hiring of Eric English, a graduate of Abbotsford High School who has been working as a parttime deputy for Clark County, as a new officer at the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department.

_ Grady told the council that the city will be required to purchase a new ExpressVote touch-screen voting machine for Marathon County voters who need special accommodations or don’t want to use a paper ballot. He said the cost of $3,500 to $4,000 should be reimburseable through the federal CARES Act, part of which provides voting assistance for municipalities.

_ According to preliminary estimates from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Grady said the city’s total equalized property value has increased by 11 percent since last year. This includes a 32 percent bump in property value within the city’s TIF districts, which means the city should have at least $630,000 in TIF revenue to spend every year, he said.

_ DPW Craig Stuttgen said his crew has started replacing curb stops along West Spruce Street in preparation for a couple major projects on that street, but they’ve run into some setbacks.

_ Engineer Dan Borchardt of MSA Professional Services told the council that Melvin Companies has started its own work on West Spruce Street by removing some trees. Storm sewer work will begin on the south side of the street next week, and then move to the north side.

As part of the Safe Routes to School portion, Borchardt said new sidewalk will be installed in front of the high school by the start of the school year.

_ The council voted to seek bids for a new loader for the public works department. Stuttgen said he should have as much as $200,000 available in his equipment fund by the start of 2021 so he can make the purchase at that time.

_ The council accepted a low bid of $193,843 from Steen Construction for a project on 1,375 feet for West Hemlock Street, just south of Abbotsford Elementary. Steen submitted the lowest of three bids, coming in about $22,000 under the next lowest bidder.

The council also approved a $10,500 contract with Cedar Corporation for engineering and oversight of the Hemlock project. At the request of council members, project manager Brian Chapman said he would contact the school district in case the work might interfere with buses coming to and from the school.

However, Chapman said the road should always open during the project, except when the contractor is reconstructing a 150-foot stretch near the softball field. He did not foresee any issues, but said he would coordinate with the schools to avoid any problems.

The project is scheduled to start in September and be completed by the end of the construction season in November.

_ The council approved a $127,115 pay request from Haas Sons for work done on the extension of Opportunity Drive west across the railroad tracks.

_ The council approved a $10 increase in parking fines, from $15 to $25, which will match the fines in Colby.

_ The council voted to give retired assistant DPW Al Uhlig $40 in chamber of commerce dollars as a thank-you for saving the city thousands of dollars on a well project by pointing out a pull box connecting two wells near Abbotsford schools.

_ For discussion at future meetings, Ald. Weix suggested the council talk about asking Advanced Disposal to provide smaller-sized garbage and recycling carts for residents who want them.

Ald.Kramer,whoparticipated in Monday’s meeting by phone, said he would like to discuss the issue of council members wearing masks at meetings. Three of the six council members who attended Monday’s meeting in person did not wear masks, despite the statewide mandate.

“The city council could really show some leadership by wearing masks,” Kramer said. “It’s just for two hours.”