Sherman board discusses fee schedule, possible road funding

by Rodney Schroeter of The Review staff

SHERMAN . Reviewing the schedule of fees and potential borrowing options to repair Abbott Drive were discussed by the Town Board Tuesday, with decisions deferred on both items.

As the board studied the current fee schedule, Supervisor Robert Boehlke asked if late fees for dog licenses covered the clerk’s time and extra postage. Clerk/Treasurer Rhonda Klatt was not sure. She said she processes about 30 or 40 late dog licenses each year.

Resident Philip Buescher asked if a dog license renewal reminder is published in the newspaper. Klatt told him people are reminded through the town’s newsletter; on the town’s website; the county also publishes notices in select newspapers throughout the county. Licensing dogs “is a state law, not just local,” Klatt said.

Supervisor James Fahney asked how long dog licenses have been required. A general consensus was that the requirement had been in place for the lifetimes of all present. Fahney said, then, that people should be aware of it, that “It’s not something we just sprung on them two years ago.”

Klatt said she would check with other municipalities on what their late fee is.

Supervisor Patricia Horne said the town charges a flat zoning permit fee of $25 for agricultural buildings, no matter how large they are. Horne asked if a subcommittee should review this. While Klatt had collated various fees charged by other municipalities, that for an ag building was not among them. Horne, Boehlke and Klatt indicated to Town Chairman William Goehring that they would serve on that subcommittee.

Horne made it clear that the ag building fee, if raised, should not be excessive. “You want it to be reasonable,” she said. “I don’t know when this was last evaluated.” Nobody could recall the fee ever having been reviewed.

Goehring asked if other fees should be reviewed. Klatt mentioned conditional use permits and variance applications. “Other towns have been bumping theirs up,” she said. “But we haven’t touched ours in a long time.”

The board voted unanimously to continue the current fee schedule, with the understanding that a review could result in an amended schedule in the future.

Fixing Abbott Drive

Goehring told the board he’d asked Klatt to prepare some projected numbers on borrowing money to fix Abbott Drive. Goehring emphasized these numbers were only for discussion, that no decision would be reached that night.

Goehring did say that the numbers “scare me.”

If the planned four miles of Abbott Drive were pulverized and repaved with five inches of new asphalt, the town would possibly need to borrow $800,000 to $900,000.

The state might cover half that amount with a grant, but the town can’t count on that money; applying for this grant money is very competitive, with demand greater than the funds available.

Horne said the town couldn’t afford to repave Abbott Drive with five inches, and then ignore the rest of the town roads for several years. She thought three or four inches would be sufficient. Supervisor Kris Klein disagreed, thinking the five inches was necessary to withstand heavy vehicular traffic.

There was no disagreement that Abbott Drive was in bad enough condition that it needed to be pulverized and rebuilt. The board has generally concluded that a layer of asphalt applied to the existing road would soon break up and be a waste of money.

Horne asked how borrowing nearly a million dollars for 10 years would affect taxes.

“It would roughly increase our tax rate by about a third,” Goehring said. Klatt did a quick calculation that confirmed this.

“For 10 years?” asked Buescher from the audience.

“Yes,” Klatt replied.

And for that 10 years, Goehring said of upkeep on other roads, “There would be minor repairs, but not much.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“All the townships are in the same boat,” said Goehring. “They all fell behind when blacktop prices soared, and state aid for roads have not kept up with increased expenses. As you travel the county, I think our roads are at least on a par with most towns.”

After further discussion, Goehring said, “I wanted to start talking about this, because I think we’ll know in March, hopefully, whether we get the dollars or not [from the state]. Certainly by April or May, if we’re going ahead with anything, we’ll want to get the bids.”

Thinking of another cost factor, Goehring asked Klein to get an estimate, from the County Transportation Department, of how much might be saved by waiting until 2017, when Prevailing Wage will no longer be in effect.

Goehring again emphasized this had only been a discussion of the numbers. Any decision to borrow money on the scale discussed would be communicated to residents, and a public hearing held.

Horne said, if the town did not get state funding, “we’re going to really have to think of what our alternatives are.”

Other town business

Walter Grotelueschen told the board he’d received an inquiry about something for the first time in his career as a building inspector: a standalone root cellar building. He said he has seen some fruit cellars on plans for new residences in the various communities he works for.

Horne said she and Klatt would review the revenue and expenses for the transfer station, once the final 2015 numbers were available. Before the requirement of a $2 sticker for each bag of household garbage, expenses were so much higher than receipts that the board had said closing the transfer station was a possibility. Since implementation of the $2 stickers, revenue has come close to expenses.

Boehlke once again expressed appreciation for the assistance of Howard Mitchell at the transfer station, where Mitchell recently plowed the snow. For several years, Mitchell has compacted garbage in the bins with his backhoe, resulting in fewer hauls and saving the town money.


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