Town of Cedar Lake 2018 Year in Review

Town of Cedar Lake 2018 Year in Review This is the second annual Year in Review newsletter intended to recap town board accomplishments, reflect the current condition of the township, and outline plans for future town board actions.   2018 accomplishments The town board successfully accomplished its initial objectives to: (1) control township spending; (2) improve communication between the town board and constituents; and (3) ensure that public safety, road maintenance, and quality of life activities remained top priorities.   Controlled township spending Cost saving measures.  The Town of Cedar Lake’s local levy will decrease by 7.12% in 2019 due to multiple cost saving measures that were implemented in 2018.  Every budget line item was reviewed to determine whether to retain, modify, or eliminate the expenditure. The town entered 2018 in far better financial shape than at the beginning of 2017.  The town is now financially secure and able to invest in upcoming road projects without raising taxes or borrowing money. Additionally, the township now has a $40,000 contingency fund available for unforecasted expenses.   Law enforcement coverage.  The Barron County Sheriff’s Department is required by Wisconsin State Statutes to provide law enforcement services to all townships within the county.  This service is non-negotiable and occurs whether a township hires additional law enforcement services, or not. The Sheriff’s Department has provided coverage prior to, during, and after the existence of the Four Corners Police Department (FCPD).  The FCPD never materialized as a shared asset, was a duplication of services, was financially unsustainable, and occurred at the expense of road maintenance.   Professional input.  After consulting with law enforcement professionals, the Town Board made an informed decision to disband the FCPD and reallocate funds to previously neglected infrastructure projects such as road maintenance and town hall entrance repair.     Decision criteria.  Three criteria were considered when determining whether to retain or disband the FCPD: (1) affordability; (2) criminal activity; and (3) referendum results.     Affordability.  Without question, the Town of Cedar Lake could no longer afford to finance the FCPD without raising taxes.  The unenforceable plan that was initially sold as a multi-entity undertaking, could no longer be financed solely by our township.   Criminal Activity.  The Barron County Sheriff’s Department provided detailed criminal activity reports from April 2017 to present. These reports were consolidated and a summary review of emergency and non-emergency calls to the Barron County dispatch center was presented by Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald during the October 8, 2018 monthly board meeting.  The result was eight fewer calls in 2018 when compared to the same time period in 2017. Further review of calls placed in 2016 and 2015 showed a similar trend. Sheriff Fitzgerald recommended that the board continue to allow the Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement coverage, and not spend any additional Town of Cedar Lake tax dollars on duplicate law enforcement coverage.     Referendum results.  A non-binding referendum was held in February 2018 asking whether to retain or disband the FCPD.  The result of the referendum was nearly even; therefore, this criteria was neutral and did not assist in the decision making process.  The board voted to disband the FCPD on March 12, 2018.   Control of overtime expenses.  Excessive employee overtime payments were eliminated in April 2018.  Responsible supervision and the implementation of effective policy letters resolved out of control overtime costs.  For the first time in the history of the township, a detailed employee handbook was implemented that now protects the interests of both the employee and the township.   Improved communication between the Town Board and Constituents The Town of Cedar Lake’s interactive website has been exceeding expectations for over 16 months and continues to serve as an invaluable asset for all resident and non-resident property owners.   Google Analytics software is used to record our website’s activity.  The website is averaging over 300 users per month with a peak of over 1,000 users during the late June, early July 2018 timeframe.  Our town’s website address is www.townofcedarlake.org  Topics such as meeting agendas and minutes, budget documents, absentee voting instructions, 4th of July activities, policy letters, and other relevant information is at your fingertips.     Documents that support monthly town board meeting agenda items have been projected on a wide-screen in the town hall since July 2017 for all attendees to see.  Feedback has been positive as these visual aids assist greatly in the understanding and exchange of information. Ensured public safety, road maintenance, and quality of life activities remained top priorities Public Safety.  The Birchwood Four Corners Emergency Services District (BFCESD) provides outstanding fire and ambulance coverage to the Town of Cedar Lake.  The BFCESD consists of seven entities (Towns of Birchwood, Cedar Lake, Doyle, Edgewater, Long Lake and Wilson, and the Village of Birchwood) with the Town of Cedar Lake paying the highest percentage of operational expenses determined by equalized property values.  A more equitable cost-share formula determined by the number of fire markers is being considered in order to stay below a ¼ mil cap established in the BFCESD bylaws.   Road Maintenance.  A Town Road Improvement Plan (TRIP) application was submitted to WisDOT and approved for fiscal year 2019.  Installation of five culverts along Loch Lomond Blvd was completed in August of 2018 in preparation for surface reconstruction in 2019.  This is a $250,000 project that, due to previously mentioned cost saving measures, will not require a tax levy increase or a financial loan.  Additionally, asphalt cold patching, gravel placement shouldering, and gravel road grading projects occurred throughout the township in 2018. The Road Supervisor and town shop employees maintained 40 miles of paved and 24 miles of unpaved roads, issued driveway permits, provided daily oversight and control of the Mikana dam, and complied with ever expanding WisDOT reporting requirements.     Quality of Life.  After 16 months of effort, a formal request to establish an ATV/UTV crossing site over the Hwy 48 Bridge in Mikana was approved by WisDOT.  ATV/UTV vehicles now have direct access to all Mikana businesses, adjacent townships, and the Tuscobia State Trial. Additionally, ATV/UTV’s are now able to travel at posted vehicle speeds resulting in a safer operating environment for all vehicles that use our township roads.  There have been no reportable accidents since township roads were opened to ATV/UTV traffic three years ago. This ever expanding family sport continues to generate much needed revenue for local businesses.   Support to Constituents.  Our Town Clerk and Treasurer supported constituents on a daily basis covering numerous topics related to 2,950 parcels of land, 1,500 taxpayers, and 850 resident voters.  This is in addition to ensuring essential administrative actions were accomplished with surrounding townships, commercial vendors, township employees, elected officials, and county and state government agencies.   2019 Objectives The Town Board is focusing on the future.  The board developed and implemented a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which is a short-range (2 -5 years) plan that identifies capital projects and equipment purchases, provides a planning schedule, and identifies options for financing the plan.  The board adopted this CIP in October 2018 and will continue to use this resource to manage township assets in a responsible manner. A copy of the CIP is available for viewing on the town’s website.   Old Town Shop demolition.  The old town shop located north across the alley from the town hall has been removed and the cleared site will remain a township asset.  Expenses related to this unnecessary building have been eliminated. Final landscaping will occur in the spring of 2019.   Public Nuisance Ordinance.  A detailed 12-page public nuisance ordinance was adopted on August 13, 2018.  Increased effort and resources will be committed in 2019 to address certain property concerns.  A copy of this ordinance is posted on the town’s website.   Town Hall repair.  Funding has been allocated to refinish the town hall’s main floor and to replace the heavy tables that cause most of the damage to the flooring.     Unpaved road improvement projects.  The town board plans to reduce the size of the gravel piles located near the town shop by hauling and spreading gravel throughout the township during the 2019 road construction season.   Fire number signs.  Funding has been allocated to continue replacing single-sided signs with double-sided signs.   Fire Hall.  The town board is awaiting a final cost-share figure from the BFCESD for the construction of a new fire hall to be located in the Village of Birchwood.  Once this figure is received, and legal contracts that bind each of the seven entities are in place, the board will make a decision on the funding request.   The Town Board hopes that you find this newsletter informative and we welcome your comments.     Ken Leners Chairman, Town of Cedar Lake Voice/text:  612.710.3030 Email:  chairman@cedarlakets.com]]>