SafeRide retains some funds from city of PdC

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By Correne Martin

Strong community support of SafeRide has outweighed a previous city of Prairie du Chien proposal to eliminate funding for the program. During Tuesday night’s meeting of the common council, a new recommendation to allocate $5,000 from the city’s 2016 contingency fund (which has over $100,000) toward SafeRide for the next year was approved unanimously. The amount is less than the original $7,500 presented in the budget; however, more funds could be provided later in 2016 if ridership continues to grow.

Scott Nichols, Crawford County SafeRide coordinator, spoke during a public hearing at the meeting to reiterate the importance of the program. He explained that any member of the Crawford County Tavern League who wants to be part of the program can purchase vouchers to do so. He said, currently, there are 42 members from across the county and in McGregor that belong to the tavern league and 18 are involved in the SafeRide program. There are numerous good samaritan drivers too, and of course, the league could always use additional volunteers.

When a patron has had too much to drink, the bartender can fill out a voucher and call either the shared-ride taxi service, Coulee Cab, for a ride in Prairie du Chien (or within a mile outside the city limits), or a good samaritan driver who will give the person a free ride home. Sometimes, the patron asks for the ride and, other times, the bartender offers it to them.

“The tavern league pays for the ride,” Nichols stated.

Jim Hackett, Crawford County emergency management director, spoke at the meeting also on behalf of Sheriff Dale McCullick. He pointed out that the sheriff’s department has seen a decrease in intoxicated drivers in the county. “I think a lot of that goes back to the Safe Ride program,” he said.

“This was never a case of the city not supporting SafeRide, it was simply a budget issue. There’s obviously a room full of people here in support of the program: law enforcement, tavern owners and others,” City Administrator Aaron Kramer said. “Scott has indicated these funds would probably make it through the summer. At that time, it would give us an opportunity to come back and look at the program again instead of cutting it off before it has a chance to run.”

The $5,000 allocated for Safe Ride will help pay expenses associated with the taxi service, including the hours it’s staffed from 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends, as well as gas and wear and tear on the vehicle. The tavern league takes care of paying the good samaritan drivers per mile as well as the cab company per ride.

Resignation creates council vacancy
Alderman Kyle Kozelka, who was first elected to a third district seat in 2011, has submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 31. The council discussed what can be done with the immediate vacancy until the seat is up for election in the spring.

Kramer explained the council’s options, which include leaving it vacant or appointing an interested district resident until election time. A vacancy would count against the council quorum, Kramer said, meaning only one person could be absent from council meetings at any one time, for the council to still meet quorum. Also, all three public works committee members would have to be present for each of those meetings. If someone is appointed to the position, the quickest he or she could take the seat would be Jan. 15.

“I would regret to let an entire district go unrepresented,” Alderman Ron Leys stated.

The council decided to solicit applications for the vacancy and, if there is interest, come back with a possible appointment at the next council meeting.

Airport terminal funding
Construction of an airport terminal is planned at the Prairie du Chien Municipal Airport in 2016, for which the city is responsible for paying about 9 percent of the project and the remainder will come from the state and the Federal Aviation Administration. The initial budget estimates, from May 2015, showed the city’s contribution to be $84,510, while the total projected cost was $919,015. New estimates, received last month, show the budget increasing to $1,064,383, with the city’s share increasing to $99,797.

Because of the increase, the Bureau of Aeronautics recommended the city sign a transfer agreement with the Burlington Municipal Airport, which would trade Prairie du Chien’s 2018 entitlement credit for Burlington’s leftover 2012 entitlement credit. According to Kramer, this has been done with two other recent terminal projects—Reedsburg and Monroe—and both of those projects would not have happened if they didn’t approve the swap of funds.

Leys, in concern for taxpayer dollars, commented: “I see no reason to spend $1 million to build a pilot’s clubhouse.” He said he spoke with someone who has a plane at the airport and that person has told him the current terminal is sufficient and that a new terminal is not needed.

Kramer assured Leys that the taxpayer dollars would not necessarily be saved. He said if Prairie du Chien did not use its entitlement credit toward new construction, the money would simply go back into a pool and be used by another municipality.

Kramer added, “This facility is going to be built to be an unmanned facility.” He noted that the current manager, Richard Yeomans, is looking at retirement in the coming years. “If you don’t replace the airport manager, you’ll probably get the money back in about four budgets.”

Part-time employees’ raise
The council approved an ordinance establishing salaries for certain part-time employees of the city, including the common council, firemen and police officers.

Kramer informed the council that, to his knowledge, the fire department hasn’t received a raise in about 10 years. Upon council vote, the decision was made to increase the base pay for firemen by $50 annually and the bonus pay by $25 each year. The total fiscal impact for this, which won’t appear until 2017, is estimated to be less than $2,500 per year.

For part-time police officers, the pay will increase from $12.50 to $15 per hour, in order to be consistent with what the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department is paying its part-timers, many of whom double for both departments. Kramer said there will be no budget impact for this because the police department’s budget is capped each year and that cap can’t be surpassed unless Chief Chad Abram comes before the council with a request.

Selective harvest at La Riviere
La Riviere Park will see a selective harvest of oak wilt and walnut trees sometime during the winter of 2016-17. The council approved a plan, recommended by a consultant, to take 215 walnut trees plus 185 oak wilt trees, all of which are dead, falling or at-risk trees and only a small percent of the tree population at the park. In total, there will be about 41,000 feet of walnuts and 34,700 feet of oak wilt.

Other business
The council issued a request for bids for a Haydn Street sewer project, which would take place in early 2016 and involve connection to the work done as part of the 2014 Marquette Road project. Improvements are needed in order to accommodate the new Nelson True Value facility.

A request from Jim Noel, 409 S. State St., for snow removal to his garage located in the non-opened alley, was denied. According to Alderman Kozelka, who is also public works committee chairman, the committee didn’t want to start a precedent of “essentially plowing a private driveway.”

“The other issue is we’d be prioritizing when we’d do it, if we decided to do it,” Kozelka stated.

In action from closed session, the council rejected an offer from Specialty Ingredients, LLC, of Watertown, to purchase 1.7 acres of city property on St. Feriole Island.

Also, the council chose to contract with Amanda Tisdale as the new city municipal attorney.

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