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Post 10818 proposes new veteran's center in Freedom Park

The New Richmond City Council recognized more than 50 kids in grades 4-5 who participated in the third annual Mayor Fred’s Reading Challenge at the meeting Monday night. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

Speaking on behalf of New Richmond/St. Croix County VFW Post 10818, Veteran Ken House presented a proposal to permit the post to construct a new 10,000 square foot veteran's center on a 5-acre plot located in Freedom Park.

Addressing New Richmond City Council members at their meeting Monday, Aug. 14, House stressed the time sensitive nature of the post's request due to a contingent proposal currently under consideration by the Department of Defense (DoD). The post has submitted an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) project application which could make certain military resources including skilled labor potentially funded by the DoD, available to work in partnership with the city on the building project.

"Initially we would be asking for permission from this body to empower me, as the chair of the building committee, to build the building in Freedom Park. As I stand here tonight, the VFW has gone out of their way to have Matt Fall, who writes IRT's for a living, write up a proposal which is at the Pentagon at this moment. There is a piece missing in that proposal. That piece is your permission for our group to build that building. In the absence of that permission, very shortly, should that IRT come up for review, we will lose 7-20 percent of the labor costs we would be acquiring from the military. That is the part that is time sensitive," explained House.

IRT produces military readiness while simultaneously providing quality services to help meet civil needs in communities throughout the United States. House said the DoD could rule on the post's application as soon as October making the City's written authorization all the more urgent.

In addition to the boundary acknowledgement and city's authorization, House was hoping to secure fill soil for the construction site, a 99-year lease to use the facility and a commitment of $200,000 to be put toward construction costs from the council Monday night.

Plans for the new center are still under development, however the land has already been surveyed by a military contractor. According to House, the new facility is being designed to serve a number of community interests in addition to veterans including seniors, youth sports and general community activities. It will contain a commercial kitchen, host a healing garden and act as a storm shelter as well. The estimated cost for the new center is $1.5 million.

"When that building is complete and paid for, we would then hand it over exclusively to the City of New Richmond and you would own it exclusively and maintain it. We would ask to be allowed to have our section of the building at a cost of $1 per year," said House.

House explained the post has already raised $130,000 to date and expects that number to grow to $200,000 by 2018. In exchange for turning the building over to the city in exchange for a 99-year lease, House proposed that the City match the post's $200,000 worth of construction funding. House explained, a financial commitment from the City would enhance the post's chances of securing grants for additional funding.

Alderman Mike Montello acknowledged his support for the post and their substantial contributions to the community, but said he had a number of questions regarding the proposal and would like to solicit the Plan Commission's input in the context of the larger community development picture.

Mayor Fred Horne acknowledged the time sensitive nature of the discussions that need to take place to move the proposal forward. He asked council members to address any questions they might have directly to House. He further asked that City Administrator Mike Darrow assemble a selection of questions pertinent to city development plans and requirements to forward to House prior to the council's next work session scheduled for Monday, Aug. 28.

Sex offender restricted areas

The council voted to table further discussion and take up the proposal again at their Aug. 28 meeting.

Council members unanimously approved Ordinance #499 — amending Section 50-291 Restricted Areas for Sex Offenders. In consultation with the Department of Corrections and Police Chief Craig Yehlik and his department, City Attorney Nicholas Vivian drafted an amendment which updates several sections of the existing ordinance.

The amendment adds Doughboy Trail to the list of restricted areas protected by a 200 foot perimeter and corrects Hatfield Park to Freedom Park. The amendment also changes the makeup of the five-member appeal committee substituting a representative from the Public Safety Committee for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections member. Additionally the amendment insures that when any appeals are filed, the Department of Corrections and the owner of any children's facility located within the restricted area that might be impacted, will be notified and have an opportunity to present testimony at the hearing.

John Doar Day

Council members approved a resolution proclaiming Aug. 28 as John Doar Day. Amongst his many achievements, he is recognized for his integral role in the 1960's Civil Rights Movement, his service as special counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee's impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon and his acceptance of the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Council also approved the renaming of the Mill Pond Trail to the John Doar History Trail.

Other business

• The Council recognized more than 50 kids in grades 4-5 who participated in the third annual Mayor Fred's Reading Challenge. Library Director Kim Hennings reported 722 children and adults participated in the eight-week program. The challenge is designed to motivate kids to continue reading during the summer. Kids earned prizes for completing 12 extra reading activities during the summer. Studies show that children who read during the summer are better prepared for school when it resumes in the fall.

• Council members failed to approve a resolution opposing Wisconsin Assembly Bill 399 and Senate Bill 309 which proposes to relieve the DNR of oversight and mandate St. Croix County and the Town of Somerset as well as towns, villages and cities on the Lower St. Croix to accept state rezoning in contradiction to current law and the rural character of the Lower St. Croix River. If passed, the bills will establish a precedent which could be utilized in other areas of the state relieving towns, villages, cities and counties of local control and stewardship. The measure will be revisited at the Aug. 28 work session.

• Council members also failed to pass a resolution opposing State Assembly Bill 361 which proposes that a referendum would be required for any new or existing wheel tax in Wisconsin. Wheel taxes or vehicle registration fees, are designated exclusively to fund transportation projects. Horne directed Vivian to craft a better wording of the resolution to clarify the distinction between new and existing wheel taxes and present the resolution at the Aug. 28 work session.

• Council members approved spending $163,350 to replace single-axle plow truck number 22 with a new truck from Astleford International. The City will provide 85 percent of the funding with 15 percent coming from the Stormwater Utility. Funds from the sale of the old truck will be used to replenish the Stormwater Utility.

• Council members approved a revised agreement for the purchase of the old middle school (Commons) property from the School District of New Richmond. The agreement is expected to be reviewed at the August school board meeting.

• Council members tabled an ordinance proposed by Alderwoman Scottie Ard which would compel direct sellers doing business in the City, who are found in violation of the ordinance, to halt business activities, register immediately and pay all applicable fees. Any permits, issued or pending, would be held contingent upon approval by the New Richmond Police Department, proper registration and payment of all fees. Horne directed Vivian to review the wording of the resolution for consideration at the August work session.

• Council members approved a Plan Commission recommendation of 10 projects to be completed by the airport. The Airport Commission requested the use of $450,000 of available federal dollars and $40,000 of available state dollars to pay for purchases and projects. The commission is prioritizing about $250,000 for imminent purchase of snow plowing equipment and mowing equipment.