EL rebonding to add street work projects

Board approves security camera system for Grashorn building
by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – Like a lot of other places, the village is getting rid of its Build America bonds.

The Village Board Monday approved a $1.1 million bond issue that will allow the village to pay off the remaining $835,135 on the BAB bonds and finance an additional $220,000 worth of street projects.

The BAB program was part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package in 2009. They provided a tax rebate on government-issued taxable bonds that made their cost comparable to tax-free bonds.

But Phil Cosson, the village’s bond advisor from Ehlers financial advisors, told the board that the amount of the tax rebate on the BAB bonds has been reduced from 35 percent to 8.7 percent as part of federal spending cuts, making tax-free general obligation bonds less expensive for the village.

City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Jessica Reilly told the board the additional funds would be used for overlay projects on South East and South Lake streets, and West Rhine Street if there is enough money.

“We would probably have to borrow for those projects anyway,” Village President Alan Rudnick, who attended the meeting via speakerphone while on vacation, added.

“The estimated savings, they’re not huge, but it’s about three, four, five thousand a year,” Cosson told the board. He added that the estimate is based on BAB rebates remaining at 8.7 percent. If those rebates are reduced further, the savings would be even greater.

“We just got our BAB rebate check for this year and it was several thousand less than we expected,” Reilly noted.

Cosson said that bond interest rates continue to be at historic lows, making refinancing even more attractive.

“If rates go down in 2016 or ‘17 we could refinance then, but these rates are pretty attractive,” Rudnick agreed.

Cosson said the projected property tax increase for payments on the increased debt would amount to about $10 a year on a property assessed at $200,000 in value.

Despite reservations from Rudnick and Trustee Michael Wolf, the board voted to go ahead with a $9,600 surveillance camera system for the Grashorn Municipal Building.

The Police Department has reserve funds to cover $6,000 of the cost, Reilly explained. The remainder of the cost would be split between the village and library budgets.

During discussion by the board’s Administration and Finance Committee, Trustee Richard Sadiq questioned whether the cameras on various entrance doors and other areas would actually make employees any safer.

“It doesn’t make you safer but it makes the situation safer,” Police Chief Michael Meeusen responded. “Every school has them. Every public building I’ve been to has them.”

“I think the argument for it is it can be a deterrent and if something happens, it provides evidence,” Trustee Pam Garton commented. “I’m not sure why we wouldn’t do it, frankly.”

Meeusen said the system was in his department’s budget request for 2015, but was removed by the council. The department has available funds now with cost savings from a police officer position that has been vacant for awhile, he added.

“There may be a need for the cameras, but I’m not sure if stacking up $10,000 worth of cameras is going to accomplish that,” Rudnick stated. “There are other security measures we can take.”

“We’ve already made some steps. That’s why the cameras were added to the budget because that was the next step,” Meeusen answered.

Sadiq proposed waiting another meeting to study the proposal – which was referred to the Administration and Finance Committee after discussion at the full board’s Feb 3 meeting – but went along with the committee’s recommendation to purchase the cameras.

That recommendation was approved by the full board by a vote of 5-2, with Rudnick and Wolf voting no.

The board also approved hiring Renee Bramstedt as the village’s new police officer.

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