Posted on

City liquor, cigarette licenses to increase

It will cost more for businesses to renew their alcohol and tobacco products licenses next year as the city agrees to pass along the actual cost of doing background checks. At Tuesday’s Medford city council meeting, aldermen approved changes to the fee schedule for the beer/liquor/wine licenses as well as the fee schedule for cigarette/tobacco/vape licenses. These licenses are required for retailers to sell the products in the city.

According to city clerk Ashley Lemke, with a change in state law, the city is now required to do full background checks on all the people who serve on ownership boards for these establishments. She gave the example of the Simek Center which has a number of people on its governing board and that each of the board members would now have to have a background check done under the state law when the organization’s license is renewed. Lemke explained the state dictates to the city how much the background checks cost and that the city does not have any control over that expense.

Sewer changes

City sewer customers will see an increase on their monthly bills starting at the beginning of 2025.

Council members approved implementing a 3% increase on all residential, commercial and outside haulers. In recent years, the city has avoided increases for traditional customers as the amount of waste hauled to the plant has expanded. The city is currently receiving between 100,000 and 150,000 gallons of waste hauled to the plant each day.

As plant manager Al Zenner noted the city also works to keep its rates low through offering testing to entities such as the county and other wastewater treatment plants. Zenner explained that while there is a cost to running the lab, it also provides a revenue stream and allows them to efficiently utilize staff. He said that Medford actually has fewer staff See CITY on page 4 members running the facility than other communities with similar size plants.

“A lot of plants our size would have more staff than we do,” he said.

Under the proposal, the base price will increase from $7.33 per month to $7.54 with the price per 1,000 gallons of waste going from $6.10 to $6.28. Medford remains on the lower end of sewer plants surveyed by the city. On the high side, Rib Lake has a base monthly fee of $42.90 with usage fee of $14.26 per 1,000 gallons (up to 5,000 gallons). On the low end, Rice Lake charges a base rate of $4.40 and $3.08 per 1,000 gallons of waste.

Council member Laura Holmes asked why there is such a range in fees. Zenner explained that there are costs such as labor that are there regardless of the size of the plant, in addition some communities delay raising their rates and end up playing catch-up. He gave the example of Osseo which he noted had not raised its rates for 25 years and now has a base fee of $35.61 per month and a usage of $12.04 per $1,000 gallons of waste.

In other sewer utility business, council members approved issuing up to $1,317,067 in general obligation sewage system promissory notes for planned plant upgrades. The promissory notes will have an interest rate of 1.684% per year and are set to be paid off in 2043.

The borrowing is the city’s portion of a $2.3 million upgrade project at the plant that is being partly funded by the Wisconsin Clean Water Fund (CWF). Under the agreement with the CWF, the city receives a lower interest rate and 65% principal forgiveness.

In return for participating in the CWF program, the city agrees to install the equipment to the plans and specifications and maintain an equipment reserve fund along with holding harmless the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Administration for any faulty equipment.

Council members approved the financial assistance agreement to participate in the CWF program.

Development projects

The city of Medford will help finance the construction of a complex of duplexes that are being built at 267 E. Allman Street by Bryan Schultz of Northwoods Leasing. The lot is to the west of United Methodist Church.

According to Schultz, the $1,882,404 project includes the site preparation, utility extension, driveway access and construction of what will be 16 total units. The plan is to build eight apartment units this year and another eight apartment units next year.

A change from when the project was initially proposed is that there will be two bedroom units rather than the initial plan to just have them as one bedroom. Schultz said that from feedback from prospective renters for units added along Hwy 64, people are requesting two-bedroom apartments in order to use it as a spare room or home office space.

“I am happy you are doing two bedrooms as well,” Holmes said. She questioned the possibility of garages in the project.

Schultz said that while he would love to do garages, the math just does not work out for the additional cost when you look at the expense of putting heat in them to prevent heaving and construction expense. He estimated it would cost him about $50,000 per garage stall to build and that with even charging an extra $50 per month for the garage, it would not cash flow.

In an ongoing effort to promote the construction of new housing in Medford, the city has a loan program to help with the financing of duplex projects such as the one being built by Schultz. The city will provide a no-interest loan for 10 years for up to 10% of the project cost. In this case, this will amount to $188,240 in nointerest loans for the project.

In other residential development action, council members approved selling lots 7, 8, 9 in the Simek Addition to Mike and Judy Brandner at a cost of $35,000. These lots are at the far southern end of the development.

Lot eight is unbuildable because of the presence of a stormwater retention pond. The Brandners plan on splitting lot 8 between the two adjoining lots to make the lots larger. The city will maintain an easement to access the retention pond for future maintenance of the pond. City Coordinator Joe Harris explained that at some point in the future, the city will likely have to dredge it due to sediment build up.

“By the time we need to do that Mike will probably have sold it,” Harris said.

In other business, council members:

 Approved changes to the city codes governing the parks and recreation aspects of the city. According to city coordinator Joe Harris, the changes clean up some of the language in the ordinance while also tightening up restrictions on how long people can stay in the campsites. Under the new rules, people may stay at the campgrounds for no more than 14 days straight, after which they must vacate the campsite for at least seven days before they can come back for another 14 days.

 Approved moving ahead with the project and accepting state grant funds for redoing 9th Street. The project will include the replacement of curb and gutter along the road as well as pulverizing the existing asphalt and adding another four inches of asphalt on top of it.

 Approved the street closure and noise permit requests for Bringing Back the Street Dance from Old School Saloon for July 20. While the street will be closed until 2:30 a.m. the noise permit extends to midnight. As a condition, the organizers are responsible for clean up of any cans or trash from the event.