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Interest charges are city's responsibility

The City of New Richmond is stuck having to pay an additional $75,000 in interest charges thanks to slow arriving federal funds.

The accumulated interest charges started ticking upward after the Federal Aviation Administration approved an expansion project at the New Richmond Regional Airport in 2006.

Such aviation expansion projects typically receive 95 percent federal backing, with the state picking up 2.5 percent of a project's cost and the city picking up the remaining 2.5 percent.

After additional land was purchased to accomplish the project, the federal money got stuck in the bureaucratic backlog never came. The $75,000 bill is for interest charges accumulated so far. The city still hasn't seen the federal funds and New Richmond could continue to be charged $37,500 a year in interest charges until the money is appropriated.

"It's just frustrating the way government works," said New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne. Horne has met with officials at the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics asking that someone else foot the bill for the interest.

So far, everyone has told him that New Richmond is on the hook for the charges.

Horne said the city has done its part to expand its business infrastructure and to create new jobs in the region but the federal government can drag its feet and no one cares.

"We're kind of stuck holding the bag," he said.

Horne said he plans to meet with a representative from U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's office to try and get the federal money included in an upcoming appropriations bill.

Alderman Kirk VanBlaircom suggested the city be more careful when signing agreements with the FAA and the Bureau of Aeronautics in the future.

"This is completely absurd," he said. "Somebody needs to convey how disruptive this is to small municipalities."

In other business:

• Approved the sale of 3.38 acres of land in the Business and Technical Park to Federal Foam for a planned expansion project.

• The council tabled a decision on where to locate a new police impound building. The council previously approved the project for land near the city's sewage treatment plant, but objections from the land's donor have temporarily delayed construction. The city is considering other potential construction sites, including land on Campus Drive.

For a complete story, see this week's New Richmond News.