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Impact of impact fees discussed in Hammond

The impact fee moratorium was the big topic of discussion at the Monday night Village of Hammond Board meeting.

"I think we should still go along with the moratorium," said Village President Vince Trudell, at the start of the discussion.

Trustee Erin McComb posed a number of questions to the board members, including questions about how the board tracks when expenses are coming out of the current impact fee fund.

McComb said, "We really should be looking at this money, because it is use it or lose it."

It seemed that everyone had an opinion about impact fees and their impact on the village.

"I see them as little bit of an insurance policy against future costs, if it gets to the point where you weren't able to use them, fine, by law you give them back. But you had it there in case you needed it. Be cautious about how far you go with this," Village Attorney Tim Scott said.

Steve Peterson said keeping the moratorium could "stir some things up" with those individuals who have already had to pay impact fees, but McComb said past fees have helped develop the village to where it is today.

"Adding new people is the only way to help us, other than finding a way to reduce the operational costs," McComb said.

The board then suggested a temporary waiver of impact fees for new residential properties but not on new commercial development.

McComb made a motion to waive residential impact fees for one calendar year, up to 25 homes, starting April 15. Trudell seconded the motion. All members present voted aye. Wally Graf was not present.

The Veolia contract amendment was also a highly discussed topic at the meeting.

The board had no issue approving the recycling change day in Hammond, but other changes in the amended contract didn't sit well with some board members.

McComb voiced concern about a change extending the Veolia contract for five years. Originally the contract with the waste company went to 2013, the new amendment asks to extend the contract to 2018.

McComb said she was "not comfortable" with such a long extension.

"This is a way they keep you," Scott said. "They come in a couple years early and say, 'Hey, let's extend the terms.' Then they don't have to worry about you taking proposals when it comes time for this one to expire."

One potentially good thing about the proposed changes is that Veolia would not annually renegotiate the price in 2011, 2012 and 2013, which the board agreed was a "good deal." The extension of the contract seemed to be the main area of concern when looking at the contract amendment.

The board approved accepting the recycling day change, but wanted to change some of the wording in the contract, as the board didn't necessarily want to extend the contract out five years.

In other news:

• No one spoke during the public hearing on the subdivision amendment and state law changes.

• The ambulance contract review raised issues on cost vs. safety. Peterson said, above all else, "response time should be No. 1." Chris Buckel agreed, saying, "We're talking about lives here."

The village is currently contracted with Baldwin Area EMS.

Many board members worried switching to a service farther away, like New Richmond Area Ambulance Service, could create safety concerns due to the potential for slower response times.

"I can't see how New Richmond could be here quicker than Baldwin," Trustee Tony Bibeau said.

While the board seemed to want to stay with Baldwin, getting representation on Balwin EMS' board seemed to be an important topic. The village would like to appoint a member to the EMS board.

• The board approved the election official compensation increase of a flat rate of $150 for election and $50 for training. Village Clerk Kelly Brett said, "By doing a flat fee, it's a controlled cost."

• The board discussed the annual employee reviews and website option. Bibeau made a motion to have all village employees fill out an evaluation for department heads, not to remain anonymous. All board members said in favor except Buckel.

Buckel made a motion to have the personnel committee go through all reports and write a two-page summary. All board members present said aye.

The approval was followed by laughter as McComb said, "By personnel you mean Erin," since she was the one who proposed the idea of having the online survey reviews.

• The next village board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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