Krauter, Mayer seek D1 council seat

by Jeff Pederson

ANNE KRAUTER ANNE KRAUTER During her six-year tenure on the Sheboygan Falls Common Council, 1st District Alderwoman Anne Krauter has not wavered in voicing her opinion on key issues or tackling difficult tasks,

In fact, Krauter’s most recent term on the council found her spearheading the Municipal Building renovation project as Property Committee chair.

As she completes her third twoyear term on the council, Krauter will be taking on another challenge as she faces off against Al Mayer for the 1st District aldermanic seat in the spring general election on Tuesday, April 7.

When considering making a run for a fourth term, the Sheboygan Falls native and Sheboygan Falls High School graduate said she never thought twice.

“I really enjoy my position on the City Council and being able to see our fine city move forward,” Krauter said. “I was born and raised in Sheboygan Falls. I am a product of the Sheboygan Falls School System and have a deep love for this community.”

AL MAYER AL MAYER Krauter, who is employed as a new product development project leader for the Kohler Co. Kitchen Faucets Division, is satisfied with the way the Municipal Building renovation project has come to fruition.

“The building was in need of an elevator to meet current code requirements,” Krauter said. “The initial estimates of installing an elevator into the existing building were around $3 million. Therefore, with the assistance of the mayor, I started the Municipal Building Community Task Force as the first measure in investigating the future needs of the city services that utilize the building.

“I felt it was necessary to bring the community into the decision and provide us with a different viewpoint during this endeavor,” she said. “I believe in being proactive and addressing not only the current needs, but the future needs of the community as well. As a task force, we started the process by listing out the needs of the departments. We then drafted a scope of needs and space and provided this to architecture firms to present their ideas for how we should proceed with the project. In the fall of 2012, the task force reviewed the proposals that were given to us and narrowed our selection down to the three we felt best fit our criteria. These three firms were then invited to present their proposal to the Common Council. The council then chose to use Bray Architects for the project.”

Krauter believes the council considered all of its options carefully before developing and approving the Municipal Building renovation project.

“In early 2013, we began working closely with Bray and reviewed their proposals and made the decision that it was in our best interest to renovate the current building and remove the aging fire department truck bays and construct them out of new materials,” Krauter said. “Once a final layout and design was chosen by the council, Bray worked with the departments to ensure the layouts for their spaces was appropriate.

“By the end of the summer of 2013 we had a very good idea of the costs that were associated with the entire project,” she said. “Bray presented the final package to the council and advised that their estimates were based on a late winter bidding plan that would save us significant building costs. In the fall of 2013, after taking everything we were presented into consideration, the Common Council made the decision on a 5-1 vote to move forward with the $7 million renovation of the 62-year-old Municipal Building.”

As she looks ahead to a possible fourth term on the council, Krauter is eager to see the Municipal Building project through to a successful completion.

“With the Municipal Building wrapping up under budget, I would like to see that the saving be returned to the tax payers,” Krauter said. “If I am re-elected, I will advocate for whatever unused monies are used to pay down the debt.

“I am also looking forward to the future uses of the updated Municipal Building,” she said. “The police and fire departments will have new features that will serve them for future growth and needs. The placement of City Hall on the second floor, will allow for this department to have the space and amenities it was missing previously. The new first floor council chambers have been designed for safety and security, as well as the audio visual needs that will help us bring our meetings to the web and in turn closer to our community via technology. I am very much looking forward to seeing where our future will take us with the use of this updated space.”

In discussing the often-debated topic of downtown parking, Krauter is hesitant to make any major changes.

“Yes, I do believe we could benefit from additional parking,” Krauter said. “We have a growing and flourishing downtown area. However this would more than likely mean the removal of a building from our historic downtown.

“I believe our residents value the buildings and are more apt to park and walk than see a historic building removed,” she said. “I also do not think that removing a building is a very fiscally responsible move. We have better projects to spend city tax dollars on than creating downtown parking lots.”

Krauter is happy with the way the council is beginning to plan for the future retirement of longtime City Clerk-Treasurer Joel Tauschek.

“I believe we are moving at an appropriate pace to find a backfill for our city clerk position,” Krauter said. “This is going to be a tough job to fill. By creating the new position of deputy administrator, I feel it allows us to properly train a replacement. I also feel it was very gracious of our current City Clerk, Joel Tauschek, to provide the city with the early notification of his retirement in the coming years. This will allow us to complete the hiring and training of this important position properly.”

In addressing the largely vacant Vision Business Park, Krauter believes recent decisions to make the property more attractive to potential businesses will prove to be beneficial down the road.

“I think that the Economic Development Committee is doing a nice job in seeking the assistance of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation to aid in bringing awareness to Vision Park,” Krauter said. “We are able to use funds generated from the area to cut in the roads and add signage to bring attention to the lots available.

“I believe this will help potential businesses see what we have to offer,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing this area become developed in the near future.”

As the City Council representative on the Sheboygan Falls Park Board, Krauter is also heavily involved with several projects involving new and existing city parks.

“With the Municipal Building renovation ending and the Vision Park project kicking off, the next thing I think the city will need to look at is the existing city parks,” Krauter said. “In the past, city civic organizations such as the Optimist Club, Jaycees, Kiwanis Club and Lions Club have helped with fundraising of park equipment, installing equipment, creating and maintaining paths such as the River Walk. Some of these organizations no longer exist or have declining membership, so these types of projects are not going to happen. The Park Board and the City are going to have to work together to come up with a way to maintain and update our current city parks.

“I am also well aware we are hard at work on breaking a small piece of ground on our new park land at the end of Bluebird Lane,” she said. “We are using matching grants from the county to begin some small developments in this park, so our city residents can begin to see the vision we have for this new land. I am hesitant to put more resources than this matching grant towards this new park, knowing that our current parks are aging and we have no plan in place for maintaining them. When the Park Board came to the city about purchasing this land in 2012, it was presented as a future park, with a 10-20 year development plan without using taxpayer money. To properly begin the development of this park, it would require infrastructure, sewer, water, electricity and improved roads, all of which would require hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Looking forward Krauter is excited about the prospect of serving the city for another two-year term.

“I am a good candidate to remain on the city council because I am a proactive person and I like to see things more forward,” Krauter said. “I want to see our fine city grow and adapt to the future needs. I know that making changes is never easy, but in order to keep up the times, we will need to make budget changes and additions, add technology, and establish a future vision of what the city will become as we grow and move into the next decade.

“I have created a campaign slogan that describes my position on the City Council,” she said. “Moving Falls Forward is what I have always made my decisions based on. My slogan is visible on my re-election signs, which are being hosted in the yards of my supporters. My hope is to remind our community that casting a vote for me, is casting a vote for our city’s future.”

Through his involvement in various community-based civic, service and economic development organizations over the past 10 years, Al Mayer has worn many different hats since moving to Sheboygan Falls in 2005. After taking on leadership roles with the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club, Sheboygan Falls Chamber-Main Street and United Way of Sheboygan Falls, Mayer is embarking on his first campaign for local political office in the upcoming spring general election. On Tuesday, April 7, the New Holstein native will square off against incumbent Anne Krauter for the District 1 aldermanic seat on the Sheboygan Falls Common Council. Mayer, who holds a Bachelor

of Science degree in community health education, has held various positions in the health and wellness, business and

financial fields during his diverse professional career.

His career resume includes stints as a YMCA fitness director in Fostoria, Ohio, American Cancer Society district manager in Green Bay, sales manager at Promotional Designs Inc. in Green Bay, sporting goods store owner in Green Bay and district manager at Wells Fargo in Green Bay and Sheboygan Falls. Mayer is currently employed as the vice president of Collins State Bank.

“This is my first time running for election locally,” Mayer said. “While I was living in Green Bay, I ran for City Council and lost to an individual that had held the position for 20 plus years.

“I have decided to run for City Council in Sheboygan Falls due to a number of the decisions made by the mayor and the current council that I feel have not been in the best interest of the citizens of Sheboygan Falls,” he said. “These decisions have led to the citizens of Sheboygan Falls seeing an 18 percent increase in our local property taxes at a time that many households are struggling to make ends meet.”

Mayer said one of his main reasons for running for a council seat stems from the decisions the council made in planning the Municipal Building project.

“The Municipal Building has obviously been a topic of discussion at the council level for some time even before the very controversial renovation was undertaken,” Mayer said. “There were maintenance issues such as the HVAC system and plumbing concerns that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, no one opted to address these issues until there was a significant price tag attached to the required maintenance,” he said. “That price tag to address maintenance issues was approximately $2.5 million which was the driving force behind the need to do something with the Municipal Building.

“What concerns me as a citizen is the lack of foresight that was given these issues,” he said. “It should have never gotten to that point or we should have been much better prepared. Then when they get a consultant involved, they were given numerous options to address the needs of the Municipal Building, as well as the various departments that use the Municipal Building and rather than accept a more cost effective option, they selected the most expensive option. When the council voted to move forward by resolution versus providing the citizens an opportunity to voice their opinion via a referendum, I felt this was inappropriate given the impact it had on our taxes.”

Mayer says he does not agree with the way the council handled the financial surplus when the Municipal Building project came in $1 million under budget following the bidding process.

“Even after passing the resolution, the council had other opportunities to save taxpayers money,” Mayer said. “When the final bids came in, the selected bid came in at $6 million, which was a million dollars less than approved. Rather than pass on this savings to taxpayers, they opted to add back in $300,000 of additional cost. My question would be if these items were so important in the first place, why were they not included from the start? If the bids come in too high, you can always cut cost. There was no reason to add cost.”

Despite ongoing discussion and debate about the shortage of parking in the downtown area, Mayer does not classify it as a major problem in the city.

“While it is frustrating at times finding a parking spot downtown, this shouldn’t necessarily be considered an issue,” Mayer said. “If we didn’t have this parking concern, it would probably mean that we had a downtown area which was struggling. I don’t believe that a permit system is the solution though. I feel that if we were to provide tenants permits, this would add to the problem and very likely have a negative impact on some of the downtown businesses.

“It would be nice to be able to have additional spaces added to the downtown area, but the issue lies with the fact that there is only so much land and where would a new lot or additional parking come from?” he said. “One option would be a ramp, but that would be at a significant cost and how would it be paid for? I don’t think that the taxpayers would like paying for such a structure and they should not be burdened with that expense.”

Mayer believes the council must make good decisions when addressing the need to eventually replace City Clerk-Treasurer Joel Tauschek, who has expressed a desire to retire at a yet-to-bedetermined date.

“The city is very fortunate to have sufficient time to plan for the transition which will occur upon the retirement of Joel Tauschek, the current city clerk,” Mayer said. “The council needs to be very deliberate in taking steps to insure that when that time comes, everything continues to operate as the residents of Sheboygan Falls would expect.

“At this time, the council needs to define what the future city clerk will be responsible for and create a clear job description,” he said. “ Once that is done, it will be important to identify those responsibilities that will no longer fall under the clerk and identify who will take on that role. At the same time, I also feel that if it hasn’t been done, we need to cross train others within City Hall to know how to do things as a backup to insure that we have someone to count on to get things done in the absence of the clerk. We will need to recruit and hire someone to take on this role prior to Joel’s retirement to aid with the transition.”

While he is pleased with the recent improvements at the Vision Business Park site, Mayer says more should be done to attract businesses to the park.

“Vision Business Park is one of our communities best kept secrets,” Mayer said. “In conversation with some local business owners, they are not even aware of the fact that Sheboygan Falls has a Vision Business Park. The lack of any activity in the business park is also very concerning. Add the fact that we have lost several businesses to other communities in the surrounding area, the council needs to do more to get the word out and to bring more business to Vision Business Park.

“The proposed work which will take place later this year to add roads, infrastructure and signage to Vision Business Park is a good start and something that should have been done years ago,” he said. “People don’t know about it because when they drive by it, they see a corn field. A business that is considering building a facility wants to be able to move quickly, not wait several months for the various utilities to be brought to their site. It needs to be shovel ready. In addition to these improvements, the city needs to be more proactive working with the existing businesses in the Forest Avenue Business Park and others to identify opportunities to keep businesses here in Falls.”

As he looks forward to the possibility of serving a two-year term on the council, Mayer places easing the tax burden for city residents at the top of his to-do list.

“One of the reasons why I chose to move to Sheboygan Falls versus a surrounding community was the fact that the property taxes were on the lower end for the county,” Mayer said. “I can no longer say that as we have seen increase upon increase.

“We need to get our arms around this issue and find a way to lessen the tax burden for our residents,” he said. “Expenses need to be justified versus just approved because that is how things were done in the past.”

With a diverse resume of community leadership, Mayer feels he is well qualified to take on the challenges of serving on the City Council.

“I think I am a good candidate for the City Council due to my background and my community involvement,” Mayer said. “I have had a very diverse background which enables me to look at issues from various perspectives.

“Additionally, since moving to Sheboygan Falls in 2005, I have been committed to servicing this community and striving to make it a better place through my volunteer activities including my involvement with the Lions Club, Chamber Main-Street and The United Way,” he said. “I will provide a voice for all residents in my district and will be available to listen with an open mind to their concerns and act appropriately to address those issues brought to my attention.”

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