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County Board agrees to borrow smaller amount

The St. Croix County Board gave final approval last week to borrowing $663,274 from the State Trust Fund to help fund several projects.

Finance Director Michelle Pietrick said annual payments for the five-year loan will be about $139,000. The interest rate is 4.5 percent.

Last month supervisors approved borrowing over $715,000, but have since learned that much won't be needed. The amount borrowed was cut by $52,540 because some of the centerline mapping needed for cellular E911 is being done by the Planning and Zoning Department.

The loan will be used to buy a new jail water control system, help implement cellular E911, buy fire radio repeaters and purchase emergency communication radio consoles.

As supervisors worked on the 2006 budget last fall, they decided state-imposed tax levy limits wouldn't allow them to include the funding in this year's budget. Instead they decided to borrow for the projects.

River Falls Supervisor Chuck Struemke -- the only County Board member to vote last week against taking out the loan -- said earlier that he is concerned the county will continually use borrowing to sidestep property tax levy limits. He said the board should work hard to assure the loan is paid off in the next budget year.

These are the project amounts to be included in the loan package:

• Up to $361,510 for a system that will allow emergency services dispatchers to locate cellular phone users who call 911. The county expects a grant will repay nearly $230,000 of this cost by January 2009.

• Up to $227,290 to replace 13-year-old radio consoles that permit staff in the emergency communications center to communicate with police, fire fighters and ambulances services from six tower locations.

• Up to $7,500 to pay the balance of the cost of converting five fire base stations to repeaters. Federal grants will cover 75 percent of the total cost, and the county has already committed $18,000 to the project.

• Up to $66,974 to replace a 14-year-old electronic system that controls the flow and time of water to showers, toilets and sinks in the county jail.

According to information required on the loan application form, the county's total debt as of June 1 was $15 million. That is well below debt caps for a county this size, said Pietrick.

Boat landing

In other business, the board authorized Parks Department Director Bob Heise to apply to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a $22,000 grant to replace and improve the boat landing at Pine Lake County Park.

If the grant is approved, the county must pick up half the cost of the project. The department has set aside $22,000 in the 2006 budget as its match.

The park is on the west shore of Baldwin Pine Lake, a 107-acre lake that is used extensively for fishing and recreational boating.

According to Heise, the boat ramp has deteriorated, making it difficult for people to land and launch boats. He said this has been an annual maintenance issue for the Parks Department.