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River Falls Town Board supports tax levy increase

By Sarah Young

The River Falls Town Board passed a resolution to support an increase in the town tax levy for 2013 by 11.7% at its regular board meeting Monday night, Oct. 21.

This would increase the levy by $50,000 for a total town tax levy of $477,415.

According to Town Clerk Ruth Stern, this comes out to an increase of $42 a year for every $200,000 worth of property.

For the last six years, the town has had to take out loans to surpass the tax levy in order to complete road work.

Stern said this is the first year the state has allowed towns of less than 3,000 people to raise the tax levy instead of requiring loans. The town of River Falls has roughly 2,300 residents.

The board agreed — minus Town Supervisor Tom Sitz, who left the meeting early — that it would rather raise the tax levy than take out another loan to complete road work and offset the rising cost of fire protection.

Town Board Chairwoman Diana Smith said the town would spend less money raising the levy than it would repaying another loan.

Town Supervisor Brad Mogen agreed, saying the purpose of the resolution is to enhance the town’s ability to maintain its roads and even out the increase in the cost of fire protection.

Residents will have a chance to discuss the proposed increase at the special town meeting at the Town Hall Monday evening, Nov. 18.

Sitz left the meeting after a heated discussion erupted between board members concerning how much control the state should have over certain laws, such as radio towers and nonmetallic mining.

The board has found out some of its laws it’s worked on may not comply with new state laws.

Smith asked the board to support writing a letter to state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and state Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson), asking them to fight for local control in the regulation of nonmetallic mining.

“When I think about our job as a local government and everything that’s getting sucked up by the state — Towers, nonmetallic mining — what’s there left for us to do?” Town Supervisor Siri Smith asked. “Things get so far down the line that no one’s listening.”

Mogen and Diana Smith both said the towns should have some enforcement authority, especially concerning nonmetallic mining.

They used the example of requiring a mine operator to figure out and pay for the fixing of a town road affected by heavy mine traffic.

Sitz said he thinks the DNR should oversee nonmetallic mining laws, as long as it’s staffed to do so.

Sitz said he sees no need for local control in the issue, since no one on the board has the proper experience to oversee mining laws.

Siri Smith said she sees it as the board and Planning Commission doing all this research and work on laws, and then the state overriding and taking it away.

Mogen suggested waiting for the Wisconsin Towns Associations’ point of view on the subject before taking further action. Sitz said he’s going to write his own letter that will speak against local control.

“I’m the only one on this board with any vision,” Sitz said. “In fact, I feel so good I think I’ll go home.”

With that, Sitz gathered his things and left the Town Board meeting early.

Julie Sponsler, N7649 950th St., has become a fixture at board meetings. She is demanding an inspection of the ham radio towers owned by Bob Bliss that sit on the property adjacent to hers.

Sponsler claims the towers have grown in height since they were grandfathered in under the town’s tower law in 1998.

She also said the town’s own law states an inspection of the towers is required every three years and that hasn’t been done.

“Why does a citizen have to bring it to the town board’s attention?” Sponsler asked.

Sponsler, who’s lived in the town for 33 years, told the board she’s demanding an inspection be done by the next Town Board meeting in two weeks.

Diana Smith said that probably won’t happen, since it’s not the board’s job to do the inspection themselves, but to make sure it’s done at the expense of Bliss.

“I’m just asking you to uphold your ordinance,” Sponsler said. “I want to see some results in the next two weeks. I have been coming here for almost two years and there’s no proof you’ve done anything.”

After Sponsler left, board members agreed to give the matter to Town Attorney Bob Loberg for a definitive answer as to what is required of the town and whether the request for an inspection is valid.

In other business

Town Recycling Center employee Bradly Feyereisen was given a 50-cent raise to $8.50 an hour after completing his probationary period.

The board plans to send a congratulatory card to former town resident Boyd Huppert, who just won his ninth and 10th Edward R. Murrow awards for outstanding achievement in electronic journalism for his TV show “Land of Ten Thousand Stories.”

Huppert is a KARE 11 TV reporter but started out at WEVR radio station in River Falls.

“We are really proud he grew up in the town of River Falls and are proud of his accomplishments,” Diana Smith said.

The board approved a revaluation contract costing $42,100. This will put the town in compliance with state regulations requiring all revaluations of property be digitized by 2015 and updated by 2017.

A fall road tour is planned for sometime in November so the board and road crew can determine which road projects need to go on the three-year road plan.

Roads mentioned were Randall Road east of County Road W and Cady Lane.

A building permit was issued to Nicholas Jadinak, W8456 830th Ave., for a detached 24-by-24-foot garage, $8,000.