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Wisconsin Wit

Thursday, November 30, 2006

2008 Budget---a look in the crystal ball----

(I recently wrote Eric Jepperson, Evansville Finance Dir. and asked about the 2008 budget. I also asked Jennifer Petruzello for some thoughts. Usually at the end of preparing a budget such as 2007, the last thing one wants to do is look further into the future. I have reprinted my letter to Eric and his responses. I have summarized Jennifer's comments.}

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Woulfe [mailto:fre2observe@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006 10:37 AM
To: Eric jepperson
Subject: 2008 Budget Property tax Levy Limit Estimate


Eric----

As I understand it, for the 2008 Budget---------- the City tax levy would be held to a Property Tax Levy Limit by the State of Wisconin and this limit would be equal to the ratio of the increase of equalized value from January 1, 2006 to January 1, 2007, from new construction diviided by the total equalized value as of January 1, 2006.[Eric Jepperson] Yes, and if there is no, or little new construction, the Levy Limit by the State of Wisconsin is a 2% increase from the prior year. There can also be an adjustment to the Levy Limit for additional debt service for debt authorized after July 1, 2005.

Assuming that as of NOW, no further new construction was put on the books during December 2006, what would the Property Tax Levy Limit be for the next budget year? [Eric Jepperson] I will contact our city assessor to see if we can get any early numbers on the 2006 new construction. We have not received any dollar figures yet. As we mentioned at Common Council, new construction for 2006 is down about 60% from last year based on building permits pulled.

Also----in the memo of Jennifer Petruzello it indicated that the expenses relevant under the revenue capped by the levy limit are general operations, EMS, Library, Cemetary, Debt Service and Capital Projects. [Eric Jepperson] Yes, the tax levy goes to fund those general government operations. Enterprise funds such as Sewer, and Water & Light do not receive any tax levy dollars. They are funded by user fees.

It was asked earlier on this blog-----what the 2008 budget pro forma would look like , and I am trying to estimate the total top line revenue applicable to the tax limit---and then look at which of the FTE increases are under it---I assume all are---the Park, Police, Public Works, Legal, Planning----all these increasd expenses are expenses under the general opeations title are they not? [Eric Jepperson] Yes, the FTE increases are all under the City general operations. The maximum a 2008 pro forma revenue budget for a tax levy will be is the greater of the net new construction or the 2% increase. Jennifer warned during the Common Council meeting that it would be a lot tighter budget next year. I am trying to see how close it will be from what we know now. Any help you can give in this matter would be appeciated.[Eric Jepperson] Yes it will probably will be a tougher budget year for 2008 based on the lower new construction, but the 2% state imposed levy limit will expire soon, but common opinion assumes that the State will vote to continue it.

Richard, I will ask our City Clerk and City Assessor for any dollar amounts that they might have on the new construction and get back to you.

Thanks,

Richard Woulfe
The Evansville Observer

In her comments, Jennifer explained that the building permits does not tell the whole story, since a permit can be used over a two year period, and it takes an inspection by the city assessor to determine value at the start of the new year. Also, the building permit only lists anticipated costs, and not value, or market value.

Jennifer also indicated that if the increase in new construction was for hypothetical just half of what last year was, this would require some shifting of funding to pay for the increases in FTE that were approved by the Council recently. Hence, her general caution at the final budget meeting: Her exact words were:

"As an example, if the allowable levy increase were reduced by 1/2 to 3.056%, the maximum levy increase would be $59,092. (This is only an example not a prediction) The increase in PT Parks employment, the Customer Service Clerk and the increases in planning and attorney expense were fully incorporated into the base in 2007. But the Public Works Laborer and change in Police Dept. staffing would have a secondary increase in 2008. The Council could choose to shift the portion of the levy that is currently allocated to any of the other funds towards the general fund. I imagine, the most likely shift would be from the Capital fund to the general. I have encouraged the Council to consider the longer term impact on the tax levy limits and tax rate as they prepare for their next borrowing cycle.

As construction occurs in the newly created TIF districts, their value will be included in the net new construction numbers, which is used to determine the levy limit. Because this construction is not likely to occur by January 1st"

Again, looking to 2008 is looking at the crystal ball and speculation is a large part of this since some of the numbers are not known. Thanks to Eric and Jennifer for responding to my inquiry.

Staffing Crisis Coming? Reflections on the power of denial

Recently I have been reading articles describing a terrible crisis of finding workers now that the baby boomers are ageing and need to retire. Seems that the young workers are not trained for the job. Yes. These articles may be written by employers who want an abundance of cheap labor and cannot find it.

I also have been reading the articles and doing the math on retirement. Seems the majority of baby boomers cannot afford to retire even if they wanted to----AND THEY DON'T. They plan on working forever---until death do them part from employment. The reason for this desire to work forever is that the numbers just do not work out for their pension income or social security income to buy more than a tent. At the rate of medical cost increases, the monthly social security check will be going to pay just for medical expenses not covered under medicare, for supplemental insurance etc. The choice will be to eat or to get medical care. The housing appears to be optional.

In consult with some neighbor folks---they say that yes the baby boomers think they are going to work but just won't be able to. Thinking of working forever is just denial at work.

What do you think? You make the call.

Bill Wineke Corner: Did we win in Vietnam? What is Pres. Bush talking about?

Click on the post for a recent column by Bill Wineke.

Moving Home: Education Debt has kids moving home

Click on the post for the story. The pace of the moving home has picked up with the economic times.

School Beat: Policy Committee Met this Morn: 7:15AM

EVANSVILLE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
POLICY COMMITTEE AGENDA
Thursday, November 30, 2006 - 7:15 a.m.
District Office Conference Room
340 Fair Street - Evansville, WI 53536

Note, public notice of this meeting given by posting at the District Office, Levi Leonard Elementary School
Office, Theodore Robinson Intermediate School, J.C. McKenna Middle School Office, High School Office,
Evansville School District Web Site: www.evansville.k12.wi.us, and by forwarding the agenda to the
Evansville Review, M&I Bank, Union Bank & Trust and Eager Free Public Library.

Committee Members:
John Willoughby Kelly Mosher Krista Jones
Tina Rossmiller Heidi Carvin

Agenda:
1. Approve Minutes of October 19, 2006
2. Policies for Review:
• Policies from Board Meeting:
• Policy #428 – Public School Open Enrollment
• Policy #428.1 – Procedures for Decisions on Public School Open Enrollment
Applications

3. Discuss New Business:
• Policy #341.6 – Kindergarten Instruction
• Weighted Grades
• Fund Balance

4. Other.
This notice may be supplemented with additions to the agenda that come to the attention of the Board prior to the meeting. A final
agenda will be posted and provided to the media no later than 24 hours prior to the meeting or no later than 2 hours prior to the
meeting in the event of an emergency.
Persons needing special accommodations or more specific information about the agenda items
should call 882-5224, Ext. 3387 at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
Posted: 11/22/06

Evansville Kindergarten--1956--recognize anyone?



The original caption from Reminisce Magazine, Nov-Dec 2003 is:

SCHOOL'S OUT! "In 1956, I was a senior at the Universi­ty of Wisconsin," relates Nancy Hewitt Magnusson of Claremont. California. "I did my student teaching in Evansville, Wisconsin with a wonderful kindergarten teacher, Eva Rivers. This slide (above) is of our kinder­garten class on a wintry morning just as they were about to go home for Christmas vacation. Won't it be fun if some of those 'kids', now in their 50s, recognize themselves?"

(Ed. note. Double click on lower right of picture to enlarge.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Minutes: Plan Commission: Nov. 6, 2006

Plan Commission

Regular Meeting

Monday, November 6, 2006, 6:00 P.M.

City Hall, 31 S. Madison Street, Evansville, WI

MINUTES
Mayor Decker called the meeting to order at 6:01 PM. Present were: Mayor Decker, Ald. Braunschweig, Ald. Hammann, Cheryl Dickert, Dave Sauer, Gil Skinner, and Jeff Vrstal Staff present: Tim Schwecke, City Planner, and Jim Beilke, Clerk/Treasurer. Alderpersons Sornson and Cothard were present in the audience.

Approval of Agenda

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to approve the agenda and to move agenda item 6 (F), China Wok, to follow agenda item 5, Citizen Appearances. Motion carried.

Approval of Minutes

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to waive the reading of the October 2, 2006, minutes and approve them as printed. Motion carried.

Citizen Appearances Other Than Those Agenda Items Listed - None

Unfinished Business

Joe Bradley from Dairyland Real Estate led the discussion regarding the China Wok site plan for 128 East Main Street. He reported they are exploring a purchase of the adjacent parking lot with the idea of refurbishing or replacing the existing building.

Mayor Decker gave an update on the traffic impact analysis of Highway 14, County M, and J. Lindemann intersections. The Department of Transportation will meet with the Evansville community and businesses on November 30th at the next Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Mr. Schwecke gave an update on determining break-even point for housing and adopting a requirement that prior to annexation, the petitioner pays for a fiscal impact analysis of the proposed annexation. He has reviewed the software from UW-Madison University and reported it is one way to calculate whether a development pays for itself. There are many other different methodologies. He recommended amending the city’s zoning code. Applicants would be required to pay for a fiscal impact analysis when the parcel is greater than 5 or 10 acres and the zoning would be changed from an agricultural zoning classification to a residential zoning classification. The Commission noted these analysis would be site depended, and they are having a hard time determining their cost. The Commission instructed staff to run an analysis on the existing Grand Orchard using the software from UW-Madison because they could compare it to existing Grand Orchard’s financial analysis.

Mr. Schwecke led the discussion relating to the new official zoning map. After conferring with City Attorney Kopp, they recommended that the city identify the affected parcels and assign a proposed zoning designation. Then, the city should send a letter to each of the affected property owners to explain what is being proposed and why. He would work with the affected property owners to resolve any issues. Next, the city would prepare a new draft zoning map and schedule a public hearing. Again, all affected property owners would be sent a letter informing them of the upcoming public hearing. After the public hearing, the digital zoning map would be official. The Commission requested that they review a draft before the letters are sent out.

Mr. Schwecke gave an update on the Gibbs land division on Water Street (Application #2006-31). The applicant is working on issues involving the flood plain, which should be resolved in the next few months.

Mr. Schwecke led the discussion on the outdoor lighting ordinance. He reported most of the 12 communities that responded to our request to share their outdoor lighting ordinance had general language inserted in various sections of their code stating that lighting should “avoid causing glare” or “not shine onto another’s property.” He recommended that the city consider a comprehensive approach to outdoor lighting and adopt a stand-alone ordinance. If directed, he could draft an ordinance based on the examples we received and on lighting ordinances he had drafted for other communities. The Commission instructed staff to draft an ordinance.

New Business

Mike Robinson, President of North Prairie Productions LLC, presented the Landmark Services Cooperative annexation petition (Application 2006-31). He requested the city waive the requirement that Landmark pay the taxes owed to the Town of Union for the next five years, because this annexation involves significant infrastructure and the tax burden would be around $7,200 a year.

Mr. Schwecke reported this annexation would bring in 121 acres on the east side of County Road M and would facilitate industrial development, which is consistent with the comprehensive plan. The property owned by Landmark would be zoned industrial (I-2) and the Rupnow’s property would be zoned agricultural (A-1).

Mayor Decker opened the public hearing at 6:33 PM. Alvin Francis, 17226 W. County Road C, questioned how the 22 acres of agricultural land would be taxed after the annexation. Dave Wagner from Ehlers and Associates reported the tax would depend on zoning and use of the land. Mayor Decker closed the public hearing at 6:38 PM.

The Commission agreed to waive the requirement that Landmark pay to the City the taxes for the Town of Union for the next five years. Additionally, they noted this annexation is consistent with the comprehensive plan.

Motion Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to recommend to Council the adoption of Ordinance 2006-34 and amend the first reading draft of Ordinance #2006-34 by striking the last full sentence from Section 3. The motion, as amended, carried.

Dave Wagner from Ehlers and Associates presented the draft Plan Commission Resolution 2006-12, recommending to Council the creation of Tax Increment District (TID) No. 7 and approval of the project plan. He reported that the City would be able to obtain the funds necessary to implement the projects in this Plan and that the revenue from the District will be sufficient to pay for them. The first phase would facilitate the development of the bio-diesel facility and potential related business. The second phase would facilitate the development of the soybean crushing facility.

Mayor Decker opened the public hearing at 7:01 PM. John Sornson, 249 Franklin Street, requested that the Commission approve only the first phase tonight. Ron Arndt, 598 Water Street, cautioned the Commission that the first phase could fail and the city should wait to approve the second phase. Mayor Decker closed the public hearing at 7:03 PM.

The Commission discussed the idea of approving only the first phase of the plan. They reviewed the logic to go through this entire process for a TID plan again in the future and to pay again all the costs associated with a TID plan.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to adopt Plan Commission Resolution 2006-12 as drafted recommending to Council the creation of Tax Increment District No. 7 and approval of the project plan.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Vrstal, to remove the second phase from the plan. Motion failed (2-4).

The original motion carried.

John Gishnock presented the Conditional use permit for 210 Cemetery Road, (Application 2006-34). He will use the property for a small home-based design/build landscaping business.

Mr Schwecke reported the business would focus on small landscaping projects. The applicant wishes to use an existing outbuilding as an office. Clients may come to the site, but not on a consistent basis. Storage of materials will occur in a detached garage and in a small area on the east side of the attached garage. He recommended approval with conditions listed in his report.

Mayor Decker opened the public hearing at 7:38 PM. Thomas Cothard, 447 Evans Drive, and Ron Arndt, 598 Water Street, stated there are too many restrictions. Ald. Sornson asked if the neighbors were notified of this new business. Mr. Francis is in favors of this permit. Mayor Decker closed the public hearing at 7:40 PM.

Mr. Schwecke verified the neighbors were notified of the conditional use permit. The Commission asked John Gishnock what he thought of the restrictions. He will abide by them, but he is not adverse to changes. The Commission reviewed the conditions listed in the staff report, and their discussion with Mr. Gishnock centered on the restrictions.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Skinner, to act on the application (not defer to a later date). Motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to approve the application based on the findings as contained in the staff report and the conclusion that the public benefits of the proposed use outweigh any and all potential adverse impacts, if any. The Commission noted that 1) the use is consistent with the comprehensive plan; 2) the use is consistent with the City’s zoning code, or any other plan, program, or ordinance; 3) the use will not substantially affect nearby property; 4) the use is appropriate; and 5) the use is adequately served by, and will not impose an undue burden on, utilities and public services.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to change the language in conditions as follows: on line 3, change “three” to “five;” on line 7, change “forklifts” to “any equipment or business use to include but not limited to bobcats and forklifts” and change “6:30 pm and 6:30 am” to “8:00 pm and 6:00 am;” on line 9, change “two” to “four;” and on line 10, add the words, “on the site” at the end of the last sentence. Motion carried.

The original motion, as amended, carried.

Mr. Schwecke presented the site plan application for 210 Cemetery Road (Application #2006-35). He reported the applicant wants to establish a home occupation. The new buildings will be constructed to house the home occupation. A solid fence not to exceed six feet in height shall enclose the material storage area on the east side of the detached garage. He recommended approval of the site plan.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to approve the application with conditions as contained in the staff report (and other conditions as may be imposed by the Commission). Motion carried.

Mr. Schwecke and Mr. Arndt presented the repeal of Ordinance #2005-49 and zoning code text amendment relating to outdoor furnaces. This ordinance is very restrictive and only a few parcels in the city would qualify for an outdoor furnace.

Mayor Decker opened the public hearing at 8:02 PM. Ald. Sornson asked how existing outdoor furnaces would be affected by this ordinance. Mr. Schwecke reported existing outdoor furnaces would need to comply with this ordinance. Mayor Decker closed the public hearing at 8:04 PM.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to recommend to Council the adoption of Ordinance 2006-36 as drafted. Motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote.

Mr. Schwecke presented the zoning code text amendment relating to Board of Appeals so as to comply with 2005 Wisconsin Act 34. This ordinance would amend our code to comply with the new Wisconsin Statue.

Mayor Decker opened the public hearing at 8:07 PM and closed the public hearing at 8:08 PM.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to recommend to Council the adoption of Ordinance 2006-37 as drafted. Motion carried.

Mr. Schwecke presented zoning code map amendment, City of Evansville applicant (Application 2006-36). Earlier this year, the city annexed about 88 acres of land into the city, referred to as Larson Acres. The annexation ordinance did not specify how the land was to be zoned. Upon recommendation of the city attorney, he drafted an ordinance to rezone the property from Town of Union zoning to Agricultural District One (A-1).

Mayor Decker opened the public hearing at 8:09 PM and closed the public hearing at 8:10 PM.

Motion by Hammann, seconded by Braunschweig, to recommend to Council the adoption of Ordinance 2006-41 as drafted. Motion carried.

Mr. Schwecke led the discussion relating to adding a vehicle impound yard as a permitted land use in I-1 and I-2 and as a conditional use in other specified zoning districts. The City is currently involved in a court case regarding a resident using properties as impound yards to store towed vehicles. Our current Code does not allow an impound yard anywhere in the city. Our city attorney suggested that the City define an area where an impound yard would be a permitted use. He recommended that an impound yard be a permitted use in the I-1 and I-2 districts and allowed as a conditional use in the B-3 district. Ald. Hammann and Braunschweig would sponsor an ordinance that would permit impound yards only as conditional use in I-1, I-2, I-3, and B-3.

Mr. Schwecke led the discussion relating to a zoning land use matrix. Within the existing zoning code, there are three different places that list what land uses are allowed where. For each zoning district, there is a laundry list of uses that are allowed. Elsewhere in the code, each type of land use is described and the zoning districts are listed where it is allowed. Yet elsewhere in the code, there is a matrix showing the various nonresidential zoning districts and what land uses are allowed in each. This type of approach leads to problems. He recommended to amend the zoning code by adopting a land use matrix that lists all of the zoning districts and all of the land uses that are permitted somewhere in the city. Ald. Hammann and Braunschweig would sponsor an ordinance.

Mr. Schwecke led the discussion on consideration of a comprehensive review of the zoning code. There have been a number of amendments to the zoning code in the last two years. Additionally, the existing code in poorly organized. He recommended staff put together a proposed outline of a zoning code for the board’s consideration. The Commission instructed staff to review this matter at the next Traditional Neighbor Development meeting.

Preliminary Development Presentations - None

Report of the Evansville Redevelopment Authority - None

Report of the Evansville Historic Preservation Commission – None

Report of the Traditional Neighborhood Development/Residential Design Study Committee

Ald. Hammann reported the Committee is reviewing their field trips and developing an ordinance.

City Planner’s Report

Mr. Schwecke reviewed his report on the updates on Common Council actions relating to Plan Commission recommendations.

Adjournment

Motion by Hammann, seconded Braunschweig, to adjourn at 8:38 PM, carried.

Prepared by:

James A. Beilke

City Clerk/Treasurer

The minutes are not official until approved by the Plan Commission at their next regular meeting.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Writers Corner: Coming Dec. 1st: "A Fraud Worse Than Enron" by Elizabeth de la Vega

This should be the book of the post election season.

Dateline Monroe: Downtown Shops Expand Hours to Thrive and Survive

As a result of a recent study, Monroe businesses have decided to open more hours to draw in more traffic. Click on the post for the latest from the Monroe Times.

School Beat: Monroe: Caught Between Devastating Cuts and Referendum

Click on the post for the latest from Monroe Schools.

Minutes; Economic Development: November 21, 2006

CITY OF EVANSVILLE

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE

MINUTES

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

5:30 p.m.

1. Roll call. The meeting was called to order by chair Wyse at 5:33 p.m. Present: Gene Bass, Roger Berg, John Decker, Tony Wyse. Absent: Cheryl Dickert, Fred Juergens, Dave Olsen, James Otterstein. Also present: Jeff Farnsworth, Mayor Sandy Decker.

2. Approval of agenda. The agenda, as distributed, was approved without objection.

3. Approval of minutes of Octber 17, 2006 regular meeting. So moved by Decker, seconded by Berg. Approved by voice vote.

4. Citizen appearances, other than on items listed below. Jeff Farnsworth appeared on behalf of the owners of the Eager Building (old Ace Hardware) and displayed the drawings and specifications, which have been approved by the Department of the Interior for purposes of historic restoration. Project costs are $2,300,000.00, of which $330,000.00 was aquisition price.

The Wisconsin Department of Commerce will grant the City $300,000.00, of which $280,000.00 may be lent to the project developers for construction of the second floor apartments, and $20,000.00 may be used for grant adminstration. The Evansville Housing Authority will be able to administer. Mayor Decker reported that amounts repaid may be retained by the City for a revolving loan fund for future moderate-income housing projects.

5. Motion to approve expenditure from 2006 budget in the amount of $475.00 (or 1/2 of total cost) toward cost of the "Evansville" page in the Rock County Visitor's Guide. So moved by Decker, seconded by Bass. Approved by voice vote.

6. Motion to approve expenditure from 2006 budget in the amount of $850.00 (or 1/4 of total cost) toward the cost of reprinting the 4-color Evansville Visitor's Brochure. So moved by Bass, seconded by Decker. Approved by voice vote.

7. Discussion of a possible grant application for a "Community Development Block Grant - Public Facilities" for additional streetscape funding. Jeff Farnsworth reported on possible availability of Department of Commerce grant funding which may be available to assist in the funding of the 2007 Main Street reconstruction project. He and Chris Eager have completed the required survey of residents in the project area. John Decker has drafted a narrative for the application, which focusses on the handicapped acccessiblity and economic development aspects of the project.

Berg moved, seconded by Bass, to recommend to the Common Council the adoption of an authorizing resolution to accompany an initial application to the Department of Commerce for additional CDBG grant funding for the Main Street reconstruction project. Approved by voice vote.

8. Update on trade market analysis. Deferred.

9. Update on downtown promotional activity for Main Street reconstruction. John Decker reported that the advertising fund has received contributions and pledges to date of $3,775.00. Billboards have been contracted, and artwork is currently being drawn.

10. Report from Downtown Reconstruction Task Force. John Decker reported that the Task Force is considering a further promotional activity which would recruit community volunteers to assemble and distribute bags of printed materials developed by Downtown businesses in anticipation of the street reconstruction project. The Chamber and Evansville Community Partnership will be contacted to learn of interest in cosponsorship. Roger Berg suggested formation of a second Task Force to promote Main Street business opportunities which are anticipated once the reconstruction project is completed. The existing Task Force should continue to concentrate on promotion and problem-solving activities before and during the construction work. The second Task Force would concentrate on post-construction activities.

11. Initial review of Chapter 8 of Smart Growth Plan, "Economic Development." Tony Wyse distributed copies of Chapter 8 of the Smart Growth Comprehensive Plan, and observed that many of the recommendations pertaining to Downtown Evansville were being addressed by the Main Street project and the Reconstruction Task Force. Mayor Decker noted that preparation of an overall Economic Development Plan for the community was a Smart Growth goal. She suggested holding a day-long "economic summit" at the High School, to involve all segments of the Evansville business community in development of such a plan. Roger Berg said the time was right for such an activity, given the the Downtown activities, the creation of a new industrial/commercial district and the potential industrial developments on Landmark Services' property. He believes it is important to solicit participation by the full range of businesses, from day care centers to manufacturers. Tony Wyse suggested that Bert Stitt might be interested in serving as facilitator, and he will contact Bert to learn of his interest and availability. The potential schedule and agenda for the "summit" will be addressed at a future meeting of the committee, in anticipation of holding the session in March or April 2007.

12. Adjournment. Berg moved, seconded by Decker, to adjourn to the next regular monthly meeting in December. Approved by voice vote at 7:37 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

John Decker, Secretary

Traditions of the Tundra----the last Paddle

(Ed. note. Double click on lower right of each picture for largest version.)







One of the traditions of our family is that some brave soul must make that last paddle of the kayak right before the ice forms----it is even more daring and gets more prestige points in the family if the ice has already formed in thin glaze.

This year Mark and Bonnie took their kayaks on that special final paddle---precisely because if The Observer had taken the final paddle it would have indeed been final. Here are the pictures.

Cyber Monday----new Tech Weighs In---Shopping from work is big

Click on the post for the latest.

Yes. Some folks like to stand in line camped out to get the specials that only those who love football contact drills truly enjoy. Others like to shop via computer from work---on their lunch break of course.

Click on the post for the video.

TRAVEL: Kim takes Ireland

(Ed. note. The pictures will be up later. )

FW: so i fell in love with guiness...WHO WOULDN'T!?!?!?
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2006 01:34:15 -1000


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Kim

Subject: so i fell in love with guiness...WHO WOULDN'T!?!?!?
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2006 08:47:48 -0600
>hey guys!!!
>as i'm sure you can guess...i do NOT have pictures up yet. But i will send
>them asap!!! lets start from the beginning though!
>
>we left on Thursday afternoon. When we got to Ireland we were so shocked to
>be speaking English to people that we were like toungue tied for the first
>half hour! But then...we got our car!!!! oh oh...yes i know...scary. But i
>am glad to say...we had NO crashes!!! maybe a couple close calls...but what
>do you expect when they drive on the wrong side of the road!?!?!?
>anyway...thursday night we took on the left side of the road and SOMEHOW
>made it to our hostel. Which, was REALLY nice!!! And...as exhausted as we
>were...we knew we coudln't miss a night at the pubs...so we went out!!! I'm
>counting on you for this one Chris..what is a baby guiness??? its a
>shot...and its soooooooooooooooo yummy!!!! ok yeah...
>
>Friday we woke up and decided to take on the roads again....oh golly. We
>were driving to the cliffs of moher!!! and when we FINALLY got there they
>were gorgeous! it was so weird to think that we were looking out and the
>next continent we would hit was America!!! It's the closest we'd been to
>home in SO long!!! Anyway...having a car proved to be probably the best
>desicion we have made!!! We got to drive through the countryside, take our
>time, stop whenever and whever we wanted...and just relax!!! We actually
>felt like we were on a mini vacation!!! AND...it was extremely relaxing...i
>know you all must be thinking...relaxing...thats all you've been doing!!!
>but really...going to museum after museum and tourist trap after tourist
>trap gets a LITTLE tireing after awhile, so we did NONE of that this
>weekend. Well, except the tiny time we were at the cliffs. Otherwise...we
>were on our own just having a good time!!! so......
>
>Saturday I called Bernie!!! And after we walked around and had an amazing
>breakfast...he came and picked me up!!! ok lets just say...we ate BLOOD for
>breakfast!!! its called pudding...since WHEN does pudding have blood in
>it!?!?!? ok but it was REALLY REALLY good...so i'm glad i found that out
>AFTER...or i prolly wouldn't have eaten it ;) anyway...Bernie picked me up
>and drove me to his place! I met one of his sons and his wife, and I saw the
>graveyard and like 4 "Lynch" houses. Then we just hung out by the fire for
>awhile. On the way home he wanted me to meet the guy to is like "in charge"
>or canamaro (not sure exactly) marble. So we stopped by his place. ANd i
>got to meet him! They all said i had to come back and you all had to come
>with me and we could totally stay at their place. The bummer, was that we
>left to early and i didn't get to meet up with martina. But i mean...2 days
>just isn't enough!!! When he dropped me off we well....yeah we went out
>again. To this AMAZING pub with these AMAZING cocktails...for starters.
>Again, i may need some help with those Chris...we stole the menu!!!
>hehe...anyway...
>
>sunday we woke up and drove to the airport. we just took our time and
>stopped again, whenever we felt like it. We made Craig pull over by some
>horses on the sdie of the road and CHristie and I were walking up to them.
>And they turned around and stared at us. And i seriously thought they were
>ready to chase me. I got SOOOOO scared....then like 5 more appeard and
>started staring!!! so we ran...omg i saw my life flah before my eyes.
>Anyway...by then end of the trip, I learned to drive on the left side of the
>road, i learned to LOVE guiness, and i met some family!!! IT WAS GREAT!!!
>
>THEN....our plane ride home got re-routed and blah blah blah...we finally
>made it home...at like noon today. a little late but oh well! It's time to
>unpack...and...re-pack!!! i'll see you guys soon! i wanna hear all about
>your thanksgivings!!! Christopher!!!! did you get my message!?!? do you know
>how to answer your cell phone!?!?!? GEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZ!!!!! ok...gotta
>run...my time is running out in Rome, i can't spend it in this cave like
>library...CIAO!

Dateline Minnesota: Property Taxes to Rise: Property tax relief on Legislative Agenda

Click on the post for the latest from Minnesota. As the budget cycle ends for 2007, congratulations are offered all over, as we did here in Evansville. Then after a brief deep breath to celebrate------the 2008 budget cycle begins.

Just as Minnesota has forseen what the tax rise will be, The Evansville Observer has requested of the city of Evansville what the budget outlook for 2008 is, in light of the fact that we know that the increase of the levy will be x/y, where x is the increase of equalized value from new construction during the 2006 calendar year and y is the equalized value at the beginning of the year.

Given the fact that construction has slowed, it is presumed that the percentage tax increase allowed under the levy limit will be low. How the city will cope with this limit is yet to be seen.

On the school front---as is noted in the article about Minnesota---many school districts in Minnesota have breached the school levy limits by special referendum. Given that Evansville has previously voted down such a breach in the Fund 80 matter over three years ago, and in light of the fact that the approval of the school addition occured by slim margin of victory some 5 years ago, it is hard to see any successful referendum breaching the school levy limit here.

How will it all turn out? What will happen here in Evansville? Stay tuned to The Evansville Observer.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Re: Info for the Evansville Observer blog



Karate America Evansville <kaevansville@tds.net> wrote:
Karate America Evansville is a collection point
for the Marine Corps "Toy's For Tot's" program.
Toys should be un-opened.
Drop off hours are 2:30 - 8:30 PM Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Location:  27 West Main Street (Lower level of the Grange Store)
Last day for drop offs is December 11th.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY AND CARING!

Susan Granger
Owner / Chief Instructor
Karate America Evansville
608-882-2444 - phone
608-882-2445 - fax
kaevansville@tds.net - email
www.kaevansville.com - web

Gazette Corner: Evansville Manor has Expansion Plans!

Click on the post for the story by Gina Duwe on the expansion of the Evansville Manor.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Runners Corner: New Years Day Dash

NEW YEAR'S DAY DASH 2007
Looking for a great way to ring in the New Year? How about a 5 mile chip-timed run followed by wings, great prizes and giveaways and New Year's Day bowl games on large screen TV's? If that sounds good to you, then please join us for the 2nd Annual New Year's Day Dash. Here are the details (or follow this link):

Date: January 1, 2007
Time: 11:00 a.m. (Registration begins at 9:00 a.m.)
Location: Quaker Steak & Lube, 2259 Deming Way, Middleton, WI
Cost: $14.00 (Until Dec. 15th), $20.00 (Dec. 15th thru Race Day) Kids under 10 - FREE
“New Year’s Day Dash” Pint Glass to the first 250 registered.
Early Packet Pick Up at Fleet Feet Madison Saturday, December 30th and Sunday, December 31st from 12pm-4pm. (Pint glasses will be given out at the end of the race).
Register on line at Active.com or print out the registration form and mail it to or drop it off at Fleet Feet Sports, 8440 Old Sauk Road, Madison, WI, 53562. Please make checks payable to Race Day Events.

Fun Runs

Monday Night Rush Hour Run
Join us at Fleet Feet for a group run of 5 miles at 5:45pm, instead of sitting in traffic!
We will track your miles each week
When you hit 50 miles (10 run sessions), you will receive a free gift!
Nike Wednesday Night Women's Run/Walks
Join the Women of Fleet Feet for group run/walks
Every Wednesday Night @ 5:15pm
2-5 miles
Meet at Fleet Feet
When you join us a total of 10 times, you will receive a Nike Top
Mizuno Thursday Night Run
Join us for our 5 mile "roving" run.
Every Thursday Night @ 6:00pm
5 miles
The group meets at a different location each week.
Mizuno will provide technical shirts for each participant after they attend 10 runs. The runs are listed below or sign up for the FFTraining Yahoo Group, also below, to receive a weekly email on the location of the group run. Join us for the fun!
Friday Morning Coffee Run
Friday Morning @ 5:30am. Meet at Starbucks by the New Copps on Century Avenue in Middleton for 3 to 5 miles.

Fleet Feet Training Group
The Fleet Feet Training group is our "roving" running group. The group typically meets on Thursday evenings at 6:00pm (now the Mizuno Thursday Night Run) and Sunday mornings at 8:00am at different locations around the greater Madison area, unless there is an event. If you would like some group motivation please join us. There are a variety of pace groups within the larger group and our philosopy is that no runner will be left behind. Just sign up for our email list (more info below) and you will receive an email each Monday announcing the time, location and distance of the training runs. Hope to see you out there!

*Please park behind Klinke Cleaners when meeting at Fleet Feet Madison for weekly fun runs.

Here is a list of runs and events for the winter. For more details on events please see our events page:

Sunday, November 26 Starbucks - Middleton Hills 8am
Thursday, November 30 Fleet Feet 6pm 5 miles
Sunday, December 3 Machinery Row 8am
Thursday, December 7 SBR Coaching 6pm 5 miles
Sunday, December 10 Arboretum 8am
Thursday, December 14 Fleet Feet 6pm 5 miles
Sunday, December 17 Panera, Fitchburg 8am
Thursday, December 21 Pinnacle 6pm 5 miles
Sunday, December 24 SBR Coaching 8am
Thursday, December 28 Machinery Row 6pm 5 miles
Sunday, December 31 Panera University Ave 8am

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Re: market study: Karen writes; Explains the history of the trade market study

(Ed. note: Karen has written in order to explain the history of the trade market analysis expense in the hope that the Observer could understand the detailed and confusing facts. Thanks Karen. If anyone else has insight on this matter, feel free to comment and clarify. Thanks.)



Karen Aikman <kaikman@mindspring.com> wrote:
I've been looking into this a little.

The Oct 17th minutes from Economic Development Committee states:

"The budget for the project remains at $19,000, of which 75% would be underwritten by the CDBG grant, and 25% would be paid by the City.  Local funding for the Trade Market Analysis is included in the recently-approved project plan for Tax Increment District #6." 

This tells me the study still needs $4,750. The Economic Development Committee which seems to be pursuing this study has a budget of some $5,000.

The TIF#6 project plan is a 33 page document.  I found a marketing/trade market analysis study within a list of traditional infrastructure costs like water, sewer, and electric on page 14.  It was listed as $40,000.



I asked a few Aldermen what changed their minds on this study when approving the TIF#6 plan, and they told me they were not aware of it's inclusion in the document.

I went over some minutes from meetings dealing with this market study and this is what I found:

July 10 Finance and Labor minutes:

Motion by Juergens, seconded by Braunschweig, to recommend to Common Council to authorize Ehlers & Associates to amend the project plan for TID No. 5 to include $40,000 for marketing to developers and potential tenants of redevelopment projects, including, but not limited to, possibly contributing to the cost of a trade market analysis study.  The Committee questioned who would pay for the other part of trade market analysis study.  The consensus was the Committee needed more information before they could approve this motion.  Motion failed with Juergens and Braunschweig voting against it.

July 18 RDA Minutes:
V.  Old Business.
      A.  Discussion of marketing study for TIF 5.  The Chair reported that the Finance Committee has declined a proposed budget amendment for a proposed marketing study, and has returned the proposal to the Commission, with the suggestion that it be further developed, and submitted first to the Plan Commission.  Mayor Decker advised she will ask Ehlers & Associates to draft an amendment to the Project Plan for presentation to the Plan Commission.


The Minutes of the Special Council meeting Sept 26 to evaluate TIF#6 reports it this way:

Tax Increment District No. 6
Motion Cothard, seconded by Braunschweig, to adopt Council Resolution 2006-37, creating, describing, and making certain findings and approving project plan for Tax Incremental District No. 6, City of Evansville, Wisconsin.  Greg Johnson from Elhers and Associates presented the Project Plan for the Creation of Tax Incremental District No. 6 in the City of Evansville, Wisconsin.  The Council and Mr. Johnson reviewed the Project Plan.  Motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote.


It seems this study jumps from Economic Development to the RDA and from TIF 5 to TIF 6 with incredible ease.  I am not surprised to find Aldermen unable to follow it.  How it went from needing $4,750 to $40,000 and is worthy of TIF funding is still confusing.






Karen Aikman <kaikman@mindspring.com> wrote:
The minutes from the June 20 RDA meeting contain:

Executive Director Connors reported that tax increment probably could be spent on studies and marketing, but this expenditure should be explicitly authorized in the project plan.  He said the budget in TID No. 5’s project plan does not include a category of cost that clearly would include the cost of a study or marketing, and even though the budget is not intended to be exclusive, it would be prudent to amend the project plan budget to include an amount for such “soft” costs if the city wants to spend tax increment from TID No. 5 on them.  Motion by Decker, seconded by Hammann, to ask the Plan Commission and Common Council to amend the project plan for TID No. 5 to include $40,000 for marketing, including, but not limited to, possibly paying part of the cost of a trade market analysis study.  The commissioners instructed Mr. Connors to work with Ehlers & Associates to ensure that the project plan for TID No. 6 also contains a similar provision.


I believe the role of the RDA is to oversee TIF#5.  TIF#5 RE-develops the downtown and Union Street area.  TIF#6 is intended to Develop what is now cropland.  I don't follow the grounds that the REdevelopment Authority had to instruct any aspect of TIF#6.

Dateline Normal: Administrator Estates--the tale--FICTION

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(UPDATE----- Original Post 6-28-2006)-----Reflections of a "Blog Advisor," or: Could one be a "TIF blog advisor," or; How soft are soft expenses?

(Ed. note. I have reprinted the original post of 6-28-2006 on TIf "soft" expenses at the end of the post.)

11-25-2006


Today is Saturday, November 25, 2006. I am off to Starbucks on State Street in Downtown Madison. Yes to get some mocha, but most of all to meet a law student. I do not know which one yet. I just hope to bump into a stray law student who might, after I buy him an extra large, Starbucks mocha, with whipped cream, and sugar, might be conducive to agreeing with me that being a TIF blog advisor is not specifically illegal under the language of the current project language. I hope he does not want to actually see the language. I will just describe it to him generally.

Up till very recently, like the recent publication of the final Evansville 2007 budget levy, I was in despair that I could never be a TIF blog advisor. I just was sure that the distinguished members of the Finance Committee as well as the Common Council just could never pay $60,000 for my advice on each TIF that Evansville brought to creation. Shucks. I could not blame them. After all, they were getting my thoughts for FREE anyway. So, why pay?

In reviewing the final numbers, it appears that although the Finance Committee and the Common Council BOTH had rejected inserting money for a market analysis in the city budget, as long as any lawyer available had given the TIF folks at the Redevelopment Agency an opinion that it was O.K., well--no problem.

So. I am pretty excited and optimistic. I am off to Starbucks to see if I can find a stray law student that might agree with me that indeed, the advice of the Evanville Observer is indeed soft enough to be a soft allowable expense under TIF 6. Stay tuned.

--------------------------------------Original post of 6-28-2006-------

Recently some of my most faithful readers have called me with the news that Hillary Clinton has named a "Blog advisor" to be her intermediary with the blogsphere in her upcoming run for the Presidency. My readers have noted that since the Observer is currently running amost ten polls and could run as many as 50, it would be fruitful to become fully engaged with the community in a most productive way----namely that of a "TIF-Blog Advisor."

While such a soft expenditure is not currently allowable under the current project language, this could easily be modified by common council vote.

Certainly the cost of such services are hard to estimate. The usual and customary practice seems to be to start at $20,000 as a rough "soft" estimate and then just double the number as the date for the council meeting nears.

Because things are changing in a most speedy way, it probably would be most effective that I be named an advisor for each and every TIF that is created. The more I think of it, the better an idea this becomes!

The deeper question is of course is how soft are soft expenses? Not since the question of who crushed the Charmin, has this been addressed. The question is whether "Blog TIF marketing expenses" would be already covered in the new language that the City of Evansville is considering adopting as a modification to current TIF language. So. In fact no more modification may be necessary. After all, nothing is a softer expense than sales and marketing. And The Observer is proud to be among the softest of expenses around.

To Be a TIf Advisor or not, that is the question. I leave it up to you.

You make the call.

--------------------------

Friday, November 24, 2006

Monroe hires new accounting manager

Click on the post for the latest in Monroe.

Wisconsin is top of the list for rise in Health Care Costs

Click on the post for the story on how Wisconsin can expect to lead the rise in health care costs.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Evansville School Board holds pre Thanksgiving Special Meeting

Click on the post for the agenda.

Gazette Corner: Gina Goes "Geocaching"

Click on the post for the latest from the adventures of Gina Duwe, local reporter for the Janesville Gazette. Just in time for the launch of Casino Royale, Gina does a little local detective work via GPS-----O.K. it is on a spectrum of detective skill from Ace Ventura to James Bond, but still it is all on the development path of tech wizard.

Still. It was a little surprising. The Observer was covering "fashion" and Gina was covering "tech detective" stuff.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

School Beat: Science: Supr. Heidi Carvin: Science AP Courses will be reviewed

It has only been 5 short months since the AP Chemistry matter was discussed at the Evansville School board. Ultimately, the AP Chemistry was offered over three terms. Now all this may be reviewed again.

Click on the post to listen in as Supr. Heidi Carvin reviews the upcoming discussion on AP Courses.

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School Beat: Finance: Supr. Heidi Carvin may propose restoring curriculum coordinator position

Click on the audioblogger to hear the discussion of Supr. Heidi Carvin on possible restoration of the curriculum coordinator position. It is unclear whether the folks who took portions of the position and got raises would have to give their raises back if the new person was hired.

Stay tuned.

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Gazette Corner: Rock Co. Real Estate slows---no bubble

No boom and bust cycle for Janesville or Rock County---click on the post for the full story.

Agenda: Traditional Neighborhood Design, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006-- 6PM

Notice

The regular meeting of the Evansville Traditional Neighborhood/Residential Design Study Committee will be held on the date and time specified below at City Hall, 31 South Madison Street, Evansville, Wisconsin. Notice is further given that members of the City Council might be in attendance.

City of Evansville

Evansville Traditional Neighborhood/Residential Design Study Committee

Meeting

Tuesday, November 28, 2006, 6:00 PM

City Hall, 31 S. Madison St., Evansville, WI

AGENDA
Call to order
Approval of agenda

Discussion relating to amending the entire table of land uses in the City’s zoning code

Review initial draft of code

Set next meeting date
Motion to adjourn
Bill Hammann, Chair

Please turn off all cell phones while the meeting is in session. Thank you!

School Beat: Evansville School Budget Process Begins---The Facts

Current Budget 2006-7 --- Projected budget 2007-8----- Percent Change

Tax Levy $4,206,538 --- $5,225,312 ------- 24.22%


Total Receipts $17,520,080 ----- $18,564,261 ----- 5.96%

Budget Increase = $1,044,180


After Capital Expenditure and Fund Balance Reserves Net to Schools for Instruction and to Administration:

$495,712:

Use of Funds Statement:


Enrollment Increase:--- Proposed Additional Funds ---- New Funds Per New Student


High School 2 ----- $159,038---- $79,500
Middle -18 ----- $1793 ------ -----
TRIS 43 ---- $136,434----- $3126
Elem 5 ---- $109,038 ----- $2187

Administration 0 $89,410

Thus, the statement to the High School is: In consideration of your additonal burden of two (2) students for the 2007-8 school year, we give you $79,500 each to ease this burden.

For the TRIS---for each of 43 students we give you $3126.
For the Elementary---for each of 5 students we give you $1788

And for the Middle School which has an enrollment decline we have an imaginery number.

And for Administration, which has no students we distribute 20% or $89,410.

These numbers were from the facts distributed at the Evansville Finance Committee Meeting on Monday, November 20, 2006.

A lesson in Weather accounting--ditto for running accounting--ditto for schools

I recently spent some time discussing with a weather guru and teased him about the sad state of weather forcasting as I saw it. "Yes," he admitted. One just can take five "five day forecasts" and stack them on top of one another and then compare to see how amusing weather forecasting is."

It is very striking. On a warm Monday, the high lows will be just happily be extended for the next five days and beyond. In just 24 hours as the weather cools, presto--all the future will be changed likewise. I was pleased that he admitted to the fallibilty of weather forecaster---- then he asked how this was different from other accounting. That made me wonder.

In accounting for my running times, now that I am 60, I like to take my average time per mile 5 years ago and then use a rolling average to see my current time. HA? Pretty ridiculous procedure. Only in a dream with lots of ibuprophen would that ever happen.

Thus even in school budgeting we look forward like everything will be the same. The other night, folks began pondering spending a sum that will be there if all else remains the same-----like if transportation, heat, light, water and sewer, state aid, etc. stay the same. What is wrong with this picture?

The City of Evansville has filed for a 30% increase in water and sewer fees. This has been public knowledge for 6 months, and yet the school district budgets no increase. Electric rates are budgeted for 5% increase, but again no increase is budgeted. State aids have been falling and yet we hope they will stay the same.

Yes. It is pretty human to always want the numbers to just extend. Like we want to be young forever. And our running times to be always the same speed. And the weather to be just the same. But the thing about the past----- It is gone. The future is where budgeting begins. Confronting it is the problem. Make a note of it.

What is the Observer opinion in all of this? I am having enough trouble confronting the readings on my running watch. I just think there may be a watch malfunction. It cannot be. Such awful changes. Like a Lincoln to the junkyard and now my watch not working right. I cannot deal with confronting anything further, like a little school accounting. So.....

You make the call.

Re: Mailbag: Joan Writes: The Fashion Show



(Ed. note. The Observer does not normally cover fashion. I have inserted this for a little change of pace. A little of the softer side so to speak. I do like the natural leaf look----I would think in the garden this is what Eve might have worn for a little dancing uptown. Joan H from U of Minn is majoring in fashion design. Thanks Joan.)



Joan  wrote:
Thanks for all of the support. The show went well, I was really happy with
how the garment turned out. I am attaching some photos. Now I am off to work
on my next garment. I have another show coming up on November 30th at the
Weisman Art Museum for anyone that is in town. Feel free to stop on by!

Love-

Joan Marie

Gazette Corner: Wisconsin faces budget gap of 1.6 B

Click on the post for the story that everyone was avoiding during the political season. Enjoy.

Statewide School Tax Levies Rise

Click on the post for the broad view of tax levies by school districts in Wisconsin.

Dateline Normal: "Administrator Estates"------a Thanksgiving Tale

(Ed. note. The following is one a long series of sketches that are also available on Cd and mailed out in a brown paper wrapper, clearly maked FICTION. Any resemblence between these tales and reality is purely accidental.)


Some years back we made a firm and fast rule that we would make our last trip to Minnesota on Thanksgiving. Too many ice and snow problems. So----yesterday--on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I joined the millions and headed up HWY 94 and then at the Twin Cities it was bumper to bumper as I headed north to that famous land near the land of Lake Woebegone---the land of Normal, Mn.

This morning, Thanksgiving, I headed over to the local diner to get a bit of Thanksgiving turkey and chat with all the locals. There I met with Herman, my countryboy lawyer friend, who in additon to being on the Normal School Board, was a celebrated lawyer in the northern parts.

I mentioned to him that we in Evansville were hiring a new administrator. We had two excellent administrators but both had only served two or three years and then taken other jobs but remained in the town to raise their families. I just wondered how things were done in Normal.

"Shucks Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) we have plenty of administrative talent up here in Normal."

"How could that be?" I asked. It is so isolated up here and there is so little to do. How could you attract fine talent?"

"It's real simple," Herman replied. It's called "Chains of Love." We lure them with the benefits. "

"I still do not understand," I said.

"We do the real natural thing up here in God's country. Once they have served three years, we give them a paid for home, tax free in a special subsection called "Administrator Estates." Shucks, it's got a club house, a beautiful park---even a golf course is within walking distance."

"That must be very costly," I wondered.

"Not really." Herman quipped. "Ya gotta think strategically, Wolfman. Once they have served and have the wonderful home, they continue to live here and serve on committees, budget and such. Shucks, we have some of the finest talent in Minnesota right here in this little northern burg. So------it is very cost effective."

Then Herman pointed to the wall where there was a large picture of the main lodge of Administrator Estates. It had that A-frame look but was in very upscale style---almost like Grandview Lodge of Minnesota.

"It looks wonderful," I said. "But does it have a Starbucks?"

"Shucks no, Wolfman. Up here they are so excited by the wonderful homes, the career and the family life that they don't need any fancy coffee. Just simple Maxwell House, lots of sugar and whipped cream."----in the dark blue Viking mug of course.

All the "Normal" benefits of service are just our way of saying Thank You for all their fine work. It's kinda like Thanksgiving."

Tomorrow I have to head back to good old Wisconisn. Where we have some Starbucks and fancy coffee and such. Still. I had to admist that the concept of Thanksgiving as Herman and the folks in Normal did it was pretty nice. I just wondered what the locals would think of "The Administrator Estates" concept. There was 8 1/2 years to think about it till a new subsection could be platted. That seemed plenty of time to plan properly.

(Happy Thanksgiving to all those who have served or are serving our community.)






.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yahoo News: Home sales plummet in 38 States

Click on the latest. There is a conflict of opinion of whether the bottom of the sales plunge has been reached. Stay tuned.

Agenda: Redevelopment Authority: Tuesday: Nov. 21, 2006: 7:30PM

NOTICE

The regular meeting of the Evansville Redevelopment Authority for the City of Evansville will be held on the date and time stated below at City Hall, 31 South Madison Street, Evansville, Wisconsin. Notice is further given that members of the City Council might be in attendance.

Evansville Redevelopment Authority

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, November 21, 2006, 7:30PM

City Hall, 31 S. Madison St., Evansville, WI

AGENDA

(Revised 11-20-06)

Call To Order
Declare Quorum
Approve Agenda
Approve Minutes of October 17, 2006
Old Business
New Business
Discussion of a potential Community Development Block Grant - Public Facilities for the purpose of obtaining additional funding for streetscape enhancements for next year's Main Street reconstruction project
Discussion and approval of 7 E. Main St. (Eager Building)
Other Business
Adjourn
Christopher A. Eager, Chairman

Agenda: Economic Development: Tuesday, Nov. 21,2006: 5:30PM

NOTICE

A regular meeting of the Economic Development Committee for the City of Evansville will be held on the 21st day of November 2006, at 5:30 p.m., at City Hall, 31 South Madison Street, Evansville, Wisconsin. Notice is further given that members of the City Council might be in attendance.

City of Evansville

Economic Development Committee

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006, 5:30 PM

City Hall, 31 S. Madison St. Evansville, WI

AGENDA
Roll call.
2. Approval of agenda.

Motion to waive reading of the minutes of October 17th, 2006 regular meeting and approve them as printed.

Citizens appearances, other than on items listed below.

Motion to approve expenditure from 2006 budget in the amount of $475.00 (or ½ of total cost) toward the cost of the “Evansville” page in the annual Rock Co. Visitor’s Guide.

Motion to approve expenditure from 2006 budget in the amount of $850.00 (or ¼ of total cost) toward cost of reprinting the 4-color Evansville Visitor’s Brochure.
Discussion of a possible grant application for a “Community Development Block Grant – Public Facilities” for additional streetscape funding.

Update on Trade Market Analysis.
Update on downtown promotional activity for Main Street Reconstruction.
Report from Downtown Reconstruction Task Force.
Initial review of chapter 8 of Smart Growth Plan, “Economic Development”
Adjournment

Tony Wyse, Chair

Memories of "The Big Band Bash"

The first ever "Big Band Bash" was held at EHS on Saturday night. It featured a full two hours of some of the best tunes from the Big Band Era. Admission was only $6. A good crowd was on hand. The following photos are a little fuzzy. I am also working on the movie version of the event.

Speaking of movies, some of my favorite movies were from the 30's, by VonStroheim. There was big money put into the movies of the 30's. It would be nice to show a couple classic movies of the 30's during this week each year and have a real obsession week.

Some of the older folks familiar with the classic tunes started out the dancing. For the faster tunes later in the show, the younger set of the high school gave a good showing of some boogie moves.

If you missed the event---place it on your calendar for next year.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fashion: Analysis: What is with the Handbag Thing?

Since the deeper meaning of expensive handbags are not in The Observer's area of expertise, I refer you to the interesting article by Prof. Althouse this morning. After reading it, I am sure all the tool or tech guys can be very understanding. Enjoy.

Gazette Corner: Over 1000 Families assisted by ECHO for Thanksgiving

Gina Duwe has the story. Click on the post for this item in the Janesville Gazette.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"All the Fear that People generated was not accurate"-----Reflections on Growth at Common Council---

At the Evansville Common Council on Monday night was a remarkable dialogue among the council and also the finance staff about the current state of growth in Evansville, and what it might portend for next year's budget.

Alderman Bill Hammann led the discussion by mentioning that since June 2005 Smart Growth Plan some people had requested "impact statements" due to inappropriate fear of unplanned development. That fear has been "inaccurate".

Alderman Mason Braunschweig replied that with all due respect, much of the discussion was regarding impact on the school district. The Observer remembered a speech school board President Michael Pierick had given to all Evansville council members about the fact that the current "smart" growth plan completely blows the capacity of the school district, and the plan does not address the impact of this to taxpayers.

Alderman Fred Juergens then added that the "growth" at the present time was very low. Jennifer Petruzello added that the building permits have dropped 60%. Some mention was made of the biodiesel plant, but Jennifer Petruzello cautioned that this was a long term investment and was in the new TIF district, so it would not be a factor in budgeting for the city in the near term. Thus, department heads would have to be very mindful of the changes for next budget year. Next year could be a challenging budget cycle.

Maybe you missed the meeting. Would you like to listen in to this dialogue? Click on the audioblogger icon.

The magic number is still 8 1/2. Keep in training. It will be 8 1/2 years till the next developer can propose a new development in Evansville under the Smart Growth Plan. All of the decade plan is filled. The remaining spots are ZERO. Make a note of it. When you blitz through a decade plan in three months, is one "inaccurate" to be concerned? Stay tuned.

For the record. The Observer was silent during this discussion.



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Common Council raises Pool fees 7%--Mayor Decker casts deciding vote

Last Tuesday night at Common Council was the final discussion of council on the items of the 2007-2008 City Budget. It is rare at this last moment that budget numbers are altered. Still, sometimes dialogue on items is the beginning of the discussion for the coming year.

Fred Juergens, Park Board Chair, presented the "Pool" budget item, and noted that costs for the pool have been rising, and that there have been minimal pool fee increases for several years. The remodeling of the pool has been costly and the traditional ratio of pool costs to public fees has been 50%. In other words, the public only pays about half of the cost of the pool operation by direct fees.

Bill Hammann refected that for a family that is doing everything that the pool offers, lessons, swim team, and has the full family of five doing it, it can be over $450 per year. That is getting pretty pricey. Is that what the city wants?

In the final vote, Mayor Decker cast the tie breaker to pass the 7% raise in fees. Over the next year, when there is time to discuss this further, maybe there can be a "The Works" fee or a top limit that any family pays for the total swim family. There was just little time to address it at this final budget meeting. In some fashion though, this dialogue is present each year as the city must decide how much to subsidize the pool so that it is a community resource where all citizens can meet and have fun regardless of income.

Stay tuned.

Would you like to listen in to the full discussion? Click on the audioblogger icon.

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Memories of "You Have a Right to Remain Dead"



Mary, Molly and David



Andy and Carley

Memories of "You Have the Right to Remain Dead."

(Ed. note. Double Click on lower right of each picture for larger version.)



Chelsea plays the Wanton Wife


Ethan shows his moves


Checkmate




The Cast


The Pose---Max and Eli at their best



The Real Ethan Pierick

School Safety Corner: Evansville Buildings and Grounds; Joe Francis reviews some options for safety

If you click on the post, you will see the article on NBC15 regarding school safety, and specifically at Big Foot High School. All Schools in Southern Wisconsin have initiated additional safety procedures, and more are on the way. One of the items of concern----how to pay for them.

At last Thursday's Buildings and Grounds meeting at 7am, Joe Francis reviewed a menu of additonal safety items that could be purchased. That list is included in the capital equipment wish list published on the blog earlier. The list includes additonal cameras, entrance systems, additonal locking systems at the main entrance, barriers etc.

The Observer was not privy to the detailed costs involved. It was clear it was expensive. These items were not budget items. Mr. Hatfield reflected after listening to the list of cameras possible for addition, and the additonal wiring that was necessary----that wireless cameras were the new mode and that further, cameras are nice for making history--but cameras would not have made a difference in any of the much publicized school violence stories. In most cases, on the ground school personnel are the difference, and in fact the situation is over many times by the time the police get there. The specilaized swat team might get there 30 minutes after the local police. So---the key thing is to put the budget where it will make a difference.

After listening to the tickler list of possible expenses, the committee moved to refer it to the larger school board since it appears that a long range approach is needed on school safety.

OP ED: Wis. State Journal: Raising Vehicle Fee is Wrong?

The Wisconsin State Journal this morn has an Op ed piece,( click on the post)that criticizes the proposed raise of vehicle registration fees and driver's license fees and says that the prior budget practice of transferring money from transportation to schools was mismanagement of funds.

What do you think?

You make the call.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Fred" is Back!

We know that Fred has not been blogging since his by now famous "Economic Developments" Post.

Now "Fred" tells the rest of the story. Click on the post for the scoop.

Gazette Corner: Current Status of Evansville Commuter Bus?

Click on the lastest from Gina Duwe of the Janesville Gazette.

Jennifer Petruzello and Eric Jepperson present final 2007-8 City Budget

(Former Evansville City Administrator Jennifer Petruzello and current Finance Director Eric Jepperson presented the final 2007-8 budget numbers at the Evansville Common Council on Tuesday night. They addressed the changes that were made since their initial presentation in October.)

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Fred Juergens Clarifies Information on Pool Vandalism

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"Campion's Champion"

For the past 15 years something pretty special has been happening in Monroe. In fact it has had a huge impact in the whole state. It is all a story about one man. Fr. Campion. It is a story about his dedication to the handicapped. It is about his love and dedication to sport, his philosphy of sport and the character of those who are in sports.

Click on the post for the full story about the recent speech of Fr. Campion to the Monroe cross country team. It was about character. It was also about courage. Something that Fr. Campion knows well about, having to face the past year of difficulty in battling cancer.

In his speech to the cross country team, Fr.Campion mentioned that in his battle with cancer, the Monroe cross country team was in his mind as an inspiration to persist. Fr. Campion went over in his speech that he was proud of the runners that did not do alcohol. Athletes with character abstain.

I only met Fr.Campion once. At the end of a 5K race on a cold and wintry day in January in Monroe. The race was to benefit the handicapped. It finished on a hill near a local bar. It was windy and cold. All the fast runners had been finished for ten minutes and their hot beverages were being consumed as I approached the finish line. I remember his words, "Finish strong, Champions. Finish strong." He was at the finish line until the last runner completed the race.

Fr. Campion's speech on character last week in Monroe is a classic. It seems that without character, all the electronics, fancy uniforms, advertising and hoop alla that goes with sport just rings hollow. Folks are not really fooled by the show. They know deep down what is real, and what is show.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Evansville Common Council Approves Appointment of Daniel Wietecha as City Administrator eff Jan. 1st

At tonight's Evansville Common Council meeting, the Evansville Common Council voted unanimously to appoint Daniel Wietecha the new City Administrator effective January 1, 2007, subject to an agreement on specific terms of employment offered.

In a little bit of dejavu, Daniel Wietecha as city administrator of Nicollet, Mn., served on a task force for Hwy 14 development. Click on the post for the details. See. It is really a small world. It will be wonderful to get an adminstrator from the northern tundra of Minnesota. He may even have traveled up into the land of Normal, Mn, near Garrison, right next to the land of Lake Woebegon, where Herman and all the gang counsel the Evansville Observer during his getaways. Stay tuned.

Stay tuned to the Evansville Observer for all the breaking news. We brake the stories that others write about. The Evansville Observer. The old Observer will not live forever---but your words will. So speak up.

Dateline Monroe: Monroe Schools face 1.7 million of cuts; bleak forecast

Click on the post for the latest from the Monroe Times.

Gazette ----Covers the Half Day K School Board last night

Click on the post for the Janesville Gazette coverage of last night's school board meeting.

Classic AudioObserver: Christie McKittrick Speaks: The half-day "pull out" is not the same as the "stand alone";

(Ed. note. You may have seen Christie on the Ch15 web site or on T.V. Here are her unedited remarks at the Monday night Evansville School Board meeting. If you wish to download the audio, just click the link.)


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Dateline Normal; The Battle of the Little Big Horn---Recap---FICTION

Well. Last weekend was a really hectic one for me. I had just purchased a new movie camera and decided to head on up that long winding road, Hwy 10, north of the Twin Cities, to my favorite little town to relax in--- Normal, Mn. Last weekend was the famous Reinactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn---or as some know it---"Custer's Last Stand."

After a night of blissful sleep at the Spruce Goose Motel, where all the comforters are pure down, and all the walls are covered with stuffed animals, I awoke, folded the wall bed back into the wall, and headed over to the little diner to meet Herman, my countryboy lawyer friend, for my usual coffee.

Herman had written me that he had a special role for me in the reinactment. I was pretty honored that they had thought of me. I had dreamed all the way up in the car of being in the cavalry. Ah the glory.

Herman wasted no time in dismissing my illusions.

"Shucks no, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) you're gettin just too old to ride a horse under these high pressure situations."

"But...But....they are such old horses, Herman. I just know I could handle it," I replied.

"Well, " Herman replied, "The truth is that we only have a handful of uniforms, and they are all 42 or smaller. You need to stay behind the camera, and leave the riding and the glory for the younger folks. And besides. Normal has minimul liability coverage, and letting you ride a horse would be "prima facie gross negligence."

I always hated it when he threw that legal stuff at me....but...I had to admit that a 42 would be too tight a fit. I suddenly saw that the camera positon might be a good one for me after all. And besides, Herman promised to help me with the directions on the camera. It would be hard to do the camera zoom on the top of a horse.

After the reinactmact was over, Herman was pretty frustrated.

"That guy Custer just never learns. I do declare. When will it dawn on him? What a waste of human life."

I tried to explain: "Herman---this is a reinactment---it never will change!!!!!"

Then I realized that the beautiful girl that played Custer's wife had caught Herman's eye. If it had been Herman, I think the battle would never have been fought. Amen.

After it was all over. Herman spoke in a loud voice to all the actors------"Well done all. And remember----be real kind to your horses. And more important----SAVE the AMMO. I don't want any wild shooting or celebrating. Ya never know when we might need that ammo."

Two big lessons emerged from the battle. Always save the ammo. And..... Always wait for the cavalry.... expecially the cavalry with the t.v. cameras.

Amen

Channel 15 Covers the Half Day Kindergarten Issue--with video

Click on the post for the story by Channel 15 on last nights Evansville School Board vote of 4-3 to preserver half day kindergaren with conditions.

Channel 15 Additional Video: Supr Heidi Carvin for the cuts: Chris Leggett for Half Day--- Point-Counterpoint

Click on the post for the video spot of Channel 15 yesterday evening prior to the Half-Day Kindergarten meeting. Enjoy.

Monday, November 13, 2006

News Flash: Evansville School Board Votes 4-3 to approve Half-Day Kindergarten for 2007-8 School Year with enrollement conditions

The Evansville School board voted 4-3 tonight to preserve half day kindergarten for the 2007-8 school year, provided that there are 15 students of interest as of April and a minimum of 12 at August 1st.

Channel 15 News was at the board meeting and may have already had some tv news coverage of the event.

Parents in their presentations noted that there is no clear educational advantage in the data for full over half day, and the whole purpose of the two options is to adjust to the child's needs---which happens to be one of the school districts goals as stated in their handbook.

Even in the money area, Bill Connors, former Evansville City Adminstrator, spoke to the myriad of conflicting numbers that have come from the school district on the possible savings from eliminating the half day.

Art Phillips spoke as he has in the past in support of the half day, noting that there are other areas to cut rather than this valued program. Mr. Hatfield voted to support it, with conditions, and noted that even though he had voted to cut the program in finance committee, considering everything including the conditions, he could support continuance.

Mr. Pierick spoke regarding the budget crisis in education that is coming now that the season of political rhetoric has passed. It is not clear that the legislature can fashion a new formula for schools. He voted to continue the half-day program, but noted that it depends on community support.

Tina Rossmiller spoke in support of the half day, and also in support of the 4K and felt that the investment in these early programs was important and that the school district needed to make them a priority.

More audio and video tomorrow.

It was the night the community spoke up. The parent speakers were new speakers. Parent Jackie Liebel spoke on the survey undertaken by Families for 5K Choice and the 460 signatures of support that were gathered as well as the 17 students that showed an interest in next year's half day class. The effort in undertaking the door to door petition was an important factor in demonstrating to the board that this program of CHOICE was indeed of value to a large number of the Evansville community. It was not just a few parents. It was many. Most speaking for the first time to the school board. They stood up last night.

For the record, The Observer was silent, trying to figure out the instruction manual of the new video camera recording the meeting. Hopefully you can see some of it tomorrow. I have assured everyone that you will look very young. I promise. More tomorrow.

School Beat: Joe Francis explains on elementary school roof repair

At the Buildings and Grounds meeting last week on Thursday at 7am, Joe Francis went over the condition of the elementary school roof that needs repair. It is the spot above the library.

That roof is a built up roof, which means it is tar. One spot has been leaking. Two years ago, a beam has been installed to split the roof in two so that it would not all have to be replaced at one time, but one side at a time. It looks like one side will be replaced next spring. About $75,000. It is the original roof.

The total balance in the buildings and grounds capital equipment reserve is $20,000. There is not an accrued amount each year set aside for roof repair. This is something that is being considered rather than trying to make repairs out of an operating budget. Stay tuned.

Observer denies rumor he will be covering Cruise Wedding: Inisists School Board meeting more important

Click on the post for the news in yahoo on the celebrity wedding of Tom Cruise that is about to take place in Italy. The Evansville Observer has been fending off press inquiries today about whether he was indeed on that private chartered jet with Tom Cruise that headed to Italy.

NO. The Evansville Observer has consistendly stated that the Evansville School Board meeting tonight regarding the half-day kindergarten is more important.

The international press has been startled and just has not believed this. They just insist on spreading the false rumors about my international travel plans.

See you at the School board meeting.

Dateline Normal: Big "D"; or "The Pearl Harbor Strategy"--FICTION

(Ed.note. This is one of a long series of fictional sketches from a land in Northern Minnesota, just south of Garrison, called Normal, Mn. These sketches are available on Cd and are shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked, FICTION. Any resemblence between this land of make believe and reality is purely accidental.)

This weekend, anticipating the big Packers-Vikings football game, all the relatives headed up to the cabin for the last time to savor a moment in Normal, Mn.. Mark, Chris and Patrick all gathered with me at the little diner across from the bait shop for a little pre-function prior to the game. I introduced them to my old friend Herman, the countryboy lawyer, and a member of the Normal School Board. Both Mark and Chris, being business owners, hit it off instantly with Herman, cause of his crazy legal theories and wild sense of humor.

Mark began his analysis of the upcoming Packer game with a long discussion on "Big D" and that it was very unclear who had the best defense, the Packers or the Vikings. The anlaysis was very detailed. Mark had the theory that defense was what won football games. Yes, even with explosive passing teams like the Vikings and Packers.

Herman listened for a long while. I could tell he was pondering something deep.

"What are your thoughts on this, Herman?" I asked.

"Up here in God's Country, "Big D" has a deeper meaning. It stands for DEBT. "

I just then felt a little remiss, because I had not explained to the guys that Herman had been in a long battle as a member of the Normal School board that had added lots of debt to their balance sheet, and in fact had vaporized their fund balance---an act that had caused an uproar of community anger. I took a moment to give the boys a little background.

"Man, up here we are called to lead. It's called the big D----DOMINATION. I know the folks do not want to follow, but ....well....that's just their role. I am going to dominate. It's just my natural way. I just use the Pearl Harbor Strategy. We load em up with debt, take all the cash and then tell them that we need them to bust the levy limit. It's just a wonderful strategy. It's sheer moxie."

"You mean that you deliberatley create disaster in order to lead your community?" Mark asked.

"YES. YES. That IS the plan exactly," Herman said with wild enthusiasm. "It is the ultimate management tool. It is asymetrical warfare.

Mark was just stunned. He was a master of leverage. Just the thought of disaster as a management tool was a shock to his senses---- still, I could tell the "Domination" part was pretty attractive.

I had thought that Big D was about football. I had not thought of the deeper meaning. Like big DEBT, big DOMINATION, or big DISASTER.

At half time, after Favre has thrown a couple of wonderful passes, I had the feeling that the Packers would have their way. I knew how ugly Herman could get when the Vikings could not dominate, so I headed down Hwy 10 for the long drive home.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where big "D" is about DEFENSE. Where DEBT, DOMINATION and DISASTER are NOT the strategy of our school boards. And where our favorite colors are the green and gold---not purple.

School Beat: Janesville School plans budget cuts; Evansville Schools plan expansion of costs

Click on the post for the story in the Janesville Gazette this morn on the cuts that are coming in Janesville Schools.

Most school districts are cutting programs, staff, and raising fees. Few are adding costs such as Evansville Schools. Evansville has proposed adding a 4K program that would have cost taxpayers $187,000 in property taxes as well as additional State Income taxes. In addition, Evansville Schools is proposing to change a have day kindergarten position to full time which would add cost. This will be discussed at tonight's Evansville School Board meeting.

Few folks want TABOR. However, the original purpose of levy limits was to----limit. Limit the mission creep of organizations such as schools. Some schools which are defiant of these limits have caused a terrible cost to taxpayers which has been even more costly for the districts have suffered enrollment decline as well.

For those of you that have called and written about whatever happened in Moundsview, Mn. in their referendum to continue the levy limit waiver. Relax they passed it by only a few votes. They have solved their problem for one year. This community, which is near North Oaks, a gated community, is one of the most wealthy of Minneapolis can afford higher property taxes. How about you?

You make the call.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reflections on "The Strong Finish--in cross country, well...in almost anything.


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Isthmus Corner: Education: "Chartering Change"----One size does not fit all---Madison moving to creative options

Click on the post for the article in The Isthmus, The Daily Page that covers the innovative classes now being offered in Madison Schools. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mailbag: Half Day Kindergarten: Kids Write

One of the kids from Half-Day Kindergarten sent me a picture for the blog. It is unclear whether it reflects excitement over the election results or the half day program, or maybe both.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Classic AudioObserver: What Custer Knew; And When He knew it---And Why Waiting for the Cavalry is Important

What Custer Knew, And When He Knew It

Agenda: Finance: Nov. 13, 2006: 5:30PM

NOTICE

The regular meeting of the Finance and Labor Relations Committee for the City of Evansville will be held on the date and time stated below at City Hall, 31 South Madison Street, Evansville, Wisconsin. Notice is further given that members of the City Council might be in attendance.

Finance and Labor Relations Committee

Regular Meeting

Monday, November 13, 2006, 5:30 p.m.

City Hall, 31 S. Madison Street, Evansville, WI

AGENDA
Call to order
Roll call
Approval of Agenda
Motion to waive the reading of the minutes of the October 9, 2006, regular meeting and approve them as printed
Citizen appearances other than agenda items listed
Motion to approve the W&L bills and authorize their payment
Motion to approve the City bills and authorize their payment
Unfinished Business
Monthly report of City Attorney and City Engineer expenditures for preparation of future Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce grant applications
Discussion and motion to approve insurance proposal for the City of Evansville (Baer Insurance Services; Ftizgerald, Clayton, James, & Kasten Inc Insurance Company; or Community Insurance Company)
New Business
Motion to recommend to Council adoption of Ordinance #2006-40, adopting 2007 city operating and capital budgets and tax levies

Motion to recommend to Council adoption of Resolution #2006-44, amending the City of Evansville’s swimming pool rates

Motion to recommend to Council adoption of Resolution #2006-46, amending the Adopted 2006 City Budget for transfer of Appropriation from account 40-5220-830, Police Vehicle Purchase, to account 40-5220-840, Police Equipment Purchase
Motion to recommend to Council adoption of Resolution #2006-47, establishing the Municipal Judge’s salary for the year 2007
Discussion and possible motion on employment contract for the City Finance Director
Discussion and possible motion on employment contract for Human Resource Administrator

Review and discussion regarding Mary Thomas’ request for back taxes
Motion to adjourn
Thomas Cothard, Chair

Finance & Labor Relations Committee