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Bay board holds off on new DPW building

Trustees want tax-neutral alternative

Feb. 6, 2013

Whitefish Bay - The Whitefish Bay Department of Public Works will stay put in the nearly century-old horse barn the village rents in Glendale - that is, until village administration can come up with a cheaper plan for a new building or find a better site to rent.

The Village Board on Monday cut out $4.5 million from the 2013 capital budget, which would have paid for a new village-owned DPW site at Fairmount and Lydell avenues. With the DPW building, the 2013 capital budget - including nearly $11.4 million worth of stormwater and sewer work - totaled approximately $20.8 million.

The DPW building would have been funded with debt on a 20-year repayment schedule. Village administration estimated that, with the roughly $4 million the village would pay in rent, utilities and insurance over that span, the added cost of the new building would come out to about $460,000.

Yet, with the village taking on upward of $100 million in debt over the next 15 years to finance a costly stormwater and sewer overhaul, trustees weren't comfortable with such a large expense.

"It cannot raise the property taxes another penny so far as I'm concerned," Village President Julie Siegel said. She said she is sympathetic to the plight of the DPW workers, but concluded that a new building is a "want and not a need."

Trustee James Roemer commented that the price of the building was too high.

"There's more homework we need to do," he said.

Village Manager Pat DeGrave contended that the building would be more useful than the current site, and with such low interested rates, now is the time to build and own.

"We have a lot of money down the drain in rent," he said. "We're at an opportune time to move out."

He added later: "You can always build cheaper, but we didn't put a lot of bells and whistles into it."

Eventually the trustees voted to remove the DPW building from the plan, and charged DeGrave with the task of reducing the cost of a new building or finding a better site to rent.

"I think all avenues have to be exhausted," Roemer said.

"Let's start with free (compared to the current renting cost) and see what I can tap into and do some more homework," DeGrave said.

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