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May 25, 2018

5/4/2018 7:28:00 AM
Minocqua Town Board takes action on multiple money matters
Evan J. Pretzer/Lakeland Times

Lakeland Retirement Foundation executive director Janell Schroeder addresses the Minocqua Town Board during its meeting on May 1. Schroeder was there to speak about LRF’s work on the new Generations Center and request the release of funds for various program offerings.
Evan J. Pretzer/Lakeland Times

Lakeland Retirement Foundation executive director Janell Schroeder addresses the Minocqua Town Board during its meeting on May 1. Schroeder was there to speak about LRF’s work on the new Generations Center and request the release of funds for various program offerings.
Rhinelander PRAT revenue
As previously reported, Rhinelander's recent PRAT payments surpassed estimates on what the city would take in after they instituted the tax in 2017. In March, Rhinelander took in more than $100,000 from the PRAT, and if this trend holds, Rhinelander would be on track to make nearly $200,000 more than what was expected.

Evan J. Pretzer
Lakeland Times reporter

The Minocqua Town Board moved forward on a number of financial matters during its meeting Tuesday night, one of which was the next step in implementation of a premier resort area tax (PRAT) in the Minocqua area.

Since last year, Minocqua's Broadband and Business Development Committee has been gathering information on the proposed new tax and discussing it with the town board.

At a meeting last month, the business committee decided to come to the town board during its May 1 meeting with more information on a PRAT and how it may be presented to Minocqua voters in November.

In remarks to the town board, broadband and business development committee members Pete Otis and Phil Albert claimed the town would not see any negative consequences from a PRAT being implemented and urged the board to back the committee's request to continue gathering and providing information to the public before holding a binding vote on it.

"(Rhinelander's PRAT revenue shows) there's not a negative effect of having this tax here," Otis told the board. "It's not going to decrease sales in the area. The estimate for PRAT revenue in Minocqua is about $600,000. I think this would get us a lot closer to the goal of having money available to get our roads up to date."

"This would be a way to share expenses with tourists who come into the area so residents aren't paying the full $600,000 for road repairs," Albert said. "If we're on a 40-year cycle of repairing our roads we could go to a 20-year cycle based on the PRAT revenue, this would be a significant burden shared with the tourists rather than the local residents."

While the town board was largely in support of continuing with exploring the PRAT, supervisor Billy Fried opposed the idea and the motion authorizing Otis and Albert to continue their development, stating it was another tax increase and should be blocked on principle.

However, he was alone in his opposition.

According to town chairman Mark Hartzheim, the public should weigh in on any proposed tax and be given all the information possible before anything gets implemented by the town.

If approved by town electors in a referendum, it would then go to the state legislature for approval.

"I think we want to get this out there to the public and let them learn more about it and see where the public opinion goes," Hartzheim said. "I don't think there will be warring factions or anything like that, the public will speak and this will be what we will follow. We haven't heard anything back from businesses which might be affected by this but on the other hand no one has really solicited this yet either. We will make sure local residents and merchants have the opportunity to learn about the PRAT."

Senior center funds

The town board approved $10,000 for the Lakeland Retirement Foundation (LRF)'s new community center.

In 2015, the senior center in Woodruff was destroyed by fire and recently the Howard Young Medical Center/Ascension gifted a piece of land for a new building that will replace current, short term housing for the program at Hiawatha Mobile Home Estates Park in Woodruff.

Dubbed "Generations, A Community Gathering Place," the new senior center is projected to cost $2.3 million, prompting the LRF to begin a fundraising campaign.

"We're excited to be starting to raise capital," LRF executive director Janell Schroeder told the town board. "We're going to make this open to more of the citizens. In the past our building was geared solely for seniors. They will still be our primary focus but we'll also try to reach younger adults (people in their 50s) too."

Schroeder went on to express her excitement for the new building and requested money from the board, but not for the construction itself. According to Schroeder, her LRF needed money from Minocqua in order to provide services to older community residents, prompting some on the board to question why the requested funds were not being set aside for the Generations project.

"I appreciate what you're doing and what your goals are," supervisor Billy Fried said. "My perception is just, the town helped fund material things in the past, we're willing to help support you. I'd rather see the town hold on to $10,000 till you are ready to put shovels in the ground. I worry about taking funds and paying for programs. I don't think the town has been about this in the past."

"Billy's right," Hartzheim said. "The county provides a lot of services to seniors, a lot of that is in Rhinelander, so it's not practical for seniors on this end of the county to get over there and take advantage. The towns here tried to provide a place for them to go."

He added his concern was the town continuing to provide funding was "prolonging the status quo where they're in a makeshift operation."

After hearing Schroeder say a future building would prioritize seniors and Hartzheim note the board had given organizational, and not just structural, support to the retirement foundation in the past, the town board voted to approve the release of funds to Schroeder with Fried opposing. Schroeder pledged to come back in the future and give regular updates on money being raised.

Hartzheim said Wednesday the money will come from the 2018 budget and as the town board begins preparations for its 2019 budget, senior center representatives, will, as supervisor John Thompson suggested and Schroeder agreed to do, provide an update.

In fact, there will probably be a few updates prior to this fall at budget time.

"I'm sure they'll make a request for a monetary contribution for 2019 and we'll have to deliberate about how much we would want to contribute," Hartzheim said.

The board also:

• Approved a motion to accept a $2 million loan proposal from River Valley Bank for road improvements in Minocqua contingent on the ability to have draws with interest only paid on the utilized balance also contingent on a bid being awarded.

Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at evan@lakelandtimes.com.

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