News continues good on new highway complex

IT WON’T BE LONG before the Sheboygan County Highway Department moves into its brand new headquarters building at State 67 and County J in the town of Plymouth.

The new building will consolidate operations previously divided between sheds in Elkhart Lake and Plymouth as well as the office and storage facilities at the former headquarters building on the west side of the city of Sheboygan – which was the outskirts of the city when it was first built.

It will provide for more efficient and cost-effective operations for the Highway Department, operations which all of us depend upon, in one way or another, in our everyday lives and business.

While construction of the new complex is somewhat behind schedule due to the vagaries of weather over the past year, the good news is that – more importantly – the project is coming in under budget.

The county had originally projected the total cost – from land acquisition to final contingencies – at around $24.88 million. Now it appears that the final price tag will be around $1.5 million less, an estimated $23.32 million.

That’s welcome news for all of us as taxpayers and it was also welcome news for the county earlier this month when it sold bonds to finance big-ticket capital projects, including the last money for the transportation complex.

The county was able to reduce that borrowing by half a million dollars, from $7.18 million to $6.68 million. Add that to selling the bonds at a lower interest rate than originally projected and the news was good on the bottom line.

Still the bond sale was questioned – and opposed – by one supervisor, Fay Uraynar.

Uraynar admitted she was “struggling with the need” for the county to exceed an earlier self-imposed capital borrowing limit to approve the bond sale.

This despite the fact that the board had earlier agreed to exceed its borrowing limit on a short-term basis only to complete two needed expensive and in the long run, money- and life-saving capital projects – the highway complex and combined emergency dispatch/new emergency communication equipment.

And despite the fact that the county is still far, far below any borrowing limits set by state statute or suggested by financial advisors and analysts.

And despite the fact that the county continues to merit a strong financial rating from Moody’s for its bond issues.

Uraynar also raised the issue of the county’s half-percent sales tax, which went into place this year but was not part of the financing being debated in connection with the bond issue.

Even there, she “struggled” with her math. Referring to the $9 million in projected revenues from the sales tax in its first year that was part of the approval process when it was first adopted, she somehow subtracted $6 million set aside for county road work, $1 million for property tax relief and $1.5 million to be shared with cities, villages and towns for their road work and came up with an excess of $1 million left over. Do the math and you’ll find the difference is actually $500,000, not the $1 million Uraynar claimed.

Whether that is the amount, or the county actually takes in more sales tax revenue than projected and the amount does go higher, taxpayers should feel confident that county officials will make wise use of any excess, whether it be for additional needed roadwork to catch up on that deficit or for other uses.

The County Board, county officials, and county managers and employees have proven to be wise and frugal stewards of the taxpayer dollars they have been entrusted with over the past decade and more, and they should continue to be in the future as well.

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