Oak Creek Town Board to educate residents about budget | SteamboatToday.com

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Oak Creek Town Board to educate residents about budget

— A petition submitted to Oak Creek about management fees for the town's utilities once again was a topic of interest during the Town Board's budget work session Thursday night.

The Town Board's plan to charge management fees on the enterprise funds used to run the town's utilities has met with opposition from Oak Creek property owner Scott Wedel.

Wedel and former mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman submitted a petition to limit the town to recouping actual costs from the utilities or putting the matter to a public vote.

Because of the timing of the petition, Oak Creek Town Administrator Mary Alice Page-Allen said, the soonest budget year it would affect is 2014. But Town Board members were adamant that it is important to educate the public now about why they think the step is necessary and how it will benefit Oak Creek.

On a whiteboard in the meeting room, Page-Allen had a list of town priorities: utilities, police, streets, administration, and parks and recreation. If cuts might be coming, she said, the town should begin to plan where those cuts should come from first.

However, the hope of the Town Board is that public education can avert significant cuts to services.

"I support what the town is doing," Ann Trout said. "If (the petition) does move forward, there should be some kind of organization so that communication is provided to people so people have the facts."

Walt Trout said he would like to see some restrictions put on the potential amount of the fees. The town should not be able to use the utilities as a blank check and assess increasingly larger fees in future years, he said.

"I've been here 43 years, and we've always taken money out of the electric fund," Walt Trout said. "And the electric fund basically paid for the town."

Town Board member Bernie Gagne said he would not entertain the budget without some sort of cap on the amounts.

"Over a decade, we've had transfers," Gagne said. "They literally took the money and dumped it into the general fund. That's when times were good.

"This is an argument I think we as a Town Board can easily sell to the town. This issue is much bigger than this ballot issue."

Mayor Nikki Knoebel said the Town Board needs to be out explaining the situation and thinking behind the process regardless of the petition.

"We came because we live here," Ann Trout said about attending and speaking at Thursday's meeting. "This is our home. We pay all of the taxes. We're active in the community. We're here saying, 'yes.'”

The public hearing for the town's 2013 budget is Nov. 8.

"Give me a couple days and the phone book; I'll fill this room," Ann Trout said.

In other Town Board action,

• Seasonal police officer Eileen Rossi was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the town.

• A request from two mobile home parks in Oak Creek to be exempted from trash collection fees was denied by the Town Board. The agent for Willow Hill and Oak Creek mobile home parks, Onika Mayer, wrote in a letter to the Town Board that the cost of having trash services for abandoned homes in the parks is a concern. The Oak Creek Town Code allows mobile home parks to request to be classified as commercial establishments and provide their own trash services, Page-Allen said. Trash service bids for Oak Creek also were opened Thursday. There was some discussion about a decrease in the number of pickup sites affecting the price of trash services in future years. Trustees Gagne and Johrene Meyers-Story voted against the motion to deny the exemption.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com