Richland Center City Council February 7th Meeting

The City of Richland Center was given a significant gift when the Common Council met on the evening of February 7th.

Representatives of Southwest Partners and the Friends of the Pine River made contributions for the city’s portion of the clean-up along the upper portion of the Pine River where dozens of trees fell in as the result of last summer’s floods. Southwest Partner’s contribution was over $4,300, while Friends of the Pine gave $1,000 for the project. Combined, they represent about half of the city’s portion of the $34,000 project. The remainder will be paid for from a grant from FEMA. Mayor Paul Corcoran thanked both groups for not only donating to this project, but for creating great recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. On a separate but related topic, Dale Bender – representing both Southwest Partners and Friends of the Pine – proposed a unique project that may draw additional attention to the Pine River. He said there are about a dozen large tree stumps that remain from the clean-up project that could be turned into chainsaw carvings. Bender proposed holding a contest of sorts for chainsaw artists. The council took no action on that idea, but requested a more formal proposal about the idea to be considered in the future.

The Richland Center City Council approved a 2% wage increase for city employees for 2017. The increase was previously included in this year’s budget. It does not include the unionized employees within the police department. Mayor Paul Corcoran said that a more comprehensive wage study with salary increases based on performance will be worked on with the goal of being in place for the 2018 budget process.

The City Council approved a 5-year capital improvement plan that deals largely with street projects. The document is necessary for funding proposals for many capital projects – most currently the proposed Westside Drive project. While the plan does list specific streets and parking lots, along with the proposed year for that work, it was stated that the plan doesn’t necessarily mean those projects will be done in that order, but they are targeted for being done in the future.

A van lease between the Richland Center Parks Department and Richland County Health & Human Services was denied. For the last few years the city has leased the 20-passenger bus for just $1 per year, however the city has been responsible for all of the maintenance of the vehicle. The council expressed concern with the 17-year old van creating more expenses than revenue generated. In fact, it was stated that in the last 2 ½ years, the van has created a $2,900 deficit because of repairs alone. While the council saw the value in having the vehicle available, they instructed the department to find more cost neutral transportation options for users moving forward.

In other news from the Richland Center City Council Tuesday night, three maintenance tractors were approved for the Parks & Grounds Department at a total cost of just under $34,000 – less than the $40,000 that was budgeted. It’s figured the tractors will allow more efficient mowing operations during the summer. Finally, the City Council approved the $400 bid from Westbrook Associated Engineers to provide footbridge inspections for the North Park and Mill Pond footbridges. Westbrook was the lone bidder for the project.