October 5, 2009

Mt. Pleasant sets $13.5 million village hall budget

Concept plan for Mt. Pleasant's new Municipal Campus;
village hall and police station are at upper left; recplex at bottom

In one respect, Mt. Pleasant's Trustees and Building Committee gave everyone exactly what they wanted Monday night. Their meeting to set a budget for the new village hall/police station complex ended about 7:15 p.m., plenty of time to get home before the Packers/Vikings kickoff.

But when it came to actually setting a budget, well, not everyone went home happy. There had been much talk about building costs -- how, for example, Norway built its municipal building for about $90 per square foot, and some trustees and members of the building committee thought that was a price target worth shooting for (and perhaps attainable in this economy). And yet, when push came to shove, a vote to set Mt. Pleasant's budget at $10.5 million failed 4-3. Instead, trustees voted by the same margin to set a budget of $13.5 million, for what is expected to be, roughly, a building of 65,000 sq. ft.

That works out to more than $200 per sq. ft.

For the record, the same three trustees who voted for the $10.5 million budget -- Harry Manning, Karen Albeck and Ken Flones -- were on the losing side of the $13.5 million vote.

There was no question at Monday's meeting which side the audience was on: austerity. Almost everyone who spoke -- as they did last week -- came out for living within the limits of the $10 million gift for a new village hall complex. Village administrator Mike Andreasen, however, preferred to talk about how the village is living well within its borrowing capacity, even if it borrows $2.5 million to build the new complex. And former trustee Mary Carrington said, "It boggles me" that some trustees are "reducing the cost so much."

Albeck remained unconvinced. "We need to live within our harvest," she said, arguing that the budget should be set at no more than $10.5 million. A complex three times as large as Norway's 20,000 sq. ft., built for the same square-foot cost, would come to just $5.8 million she said. "I believe it's very do-able." As for the size, she suggested that holding court more often would reduce the need for a large courtroom. The more the debate went on, she said, "the more confused I am that it's even an issue."

On the other side was Joe Clementi, who said the village received a $10 million estimate once before -- 15 years ago. "Cost have gone up; needs have gone up," he said, noting "Our Police Department is so overtaxed it could be a liability."

Harry Manning said part of the problem is "expectations," but he said of all the telephone calls he's received, "nobody's telling me to spend the $15 million."

In the end, the board tried to come at the issue from two directions. One group, led by Manning, tried to pass a $10.5 million budget, with the understanding Bray Associates Architects would present "options" for such additions as a police firing range. Another, led by Sonny Havn and John Hewitt, wanted a $13.5 million budget, with the architects instructed to look for ways to underspend that amount. And, of course, there was always the $15.5 million option offered last week, for a 75,000 sq. ft. facility -- "too high a price," said Havn. "We're all looking to make it less."

The $13.5 million version was the one the building committee passed on to the trustees, by a 5-0 vote.

The trustees first voted on Manning's motion: a $10.5 million budget for a 65,000 sq. ft. complex, with the understanding that the architects might offer as "options" room for dispatch and a police firing range, for the board to vote on later. "Better for the architects to have a lower number and then have them explain why it can't be met," said Albeck. That motion failed 4-3.

That brought up Hewitt's motion for a $13.5 million, 65,000 sq. ft. building. Manning pointed out its $200 per sq. ft. cost -- "That's one of the things that concerns me." -- and Hewitt said, "We'll leave that up to the professionals." The vote was 4-3 in favor -- voting in favor were Hewitt, Ingrid Tiegel, Carolyn Milkie and and Havn-- and the meeting was over at 7:15 p.m.

One issue left undecided last week was how to finance the Public Works Department, which some trustees felt should be included in the overall project -- or at least within its budget. The architects presented a conceptual site plan last night (above) that showed the Recreational building trustees hope to attract to the complex, planning to sell the necessary 25-30 acres for $1.5 million or so -- enough to finance a Public Works building when the time comes.


  1. Trustee John Hewitt says " we leave it up to the professionals". But didn't the residents vote you in to make decisions like these and to not to leave it up to the professionals. The architects take their marching orders from you Mr. Hewitt not the other way around. With your vote, you didn't make the right decision. We have an election in April 2010 and Hewitt is on the ballot.

  2. It is truly amazing this Mt. Pleasant board could not stay within the $10 million budget defined by the gift given to them. Especially, in economic times we all find ourselves. That adds insult to injury. I always figured, however, that the complexion of the board would ultimately ignore the people, like they have before. Sooner or later the voters will wake up. Unfortunately, it will be too late. I am saddened that Ingrid voted for this too. I had thought she was a vote for reason. Damn shame.

  3. It was amazing to watch how little the building committee and board members who voted for the 13.5 understood about the project costs. These folks talk about wanting the building to be prepared for the future, yet they seem to have to hurry this project through because they weren't prepared for someone wanting to buy the present site.

    They are talking about constructing a 65000 square foot building in under 18 months and all they have right now are some conceptual drawings. The building committee isn't giving anyone a lot of confidence right now when every meeting includes "information" on funding sources that is never the same. There also seems to be no solid plan on what will happen with he fire and highway operations. They just talk about possible locations. Again, 18 months is all they have to do all this and right now it is all concepts.

    I've been in the construction business for decades and I have never seen such a lack of planning and preparation for a large project.

  4. The Translator10/06/2009 9:05 AM

    13.5 million for a palace with no DPW allotment and no FD allotment. The three that voted no are the true leaders of Mt Pleasant. Why is borrowing OK for this building, but not for full police or FD staffing? We the people have to live within our means. Mt Pleasant should have to as well. I have still to receive a good answer to the question of why way out there when 85% of the residents of Mt Pleasant live to the east.

  5. The Mount Pleasant Board voted last night. Now the citizens need to vote in future elections to let John Hewitt, Ingrid Tiegle, Sonny Havn and Carolyn Mielke know that we do not approve of them, by voting them out of office! They clearly do not care about the taxpayers who put their trust in them. They need to go!

    As for John Hewitt saying we should leave the project up to the professionals.... what can he possibly be thinking? The board hired that company, and now wants the company to tell the board what it should do? Isn't that backwards, John? It definitely is not responsible of you to believe something like that. If you were hiring an architect to work for you personally, I cannot believe you would take that position about your own money. You sure cannot care about the taxpayers money!

  6. I can't believe I voted for John Hewitt during the last election. He talks a good game but now I see who he stands for and it is not for me. I have a job still and I am grateful for that but so many of my fellow Mt. Pleasant residents do not. John you disappointed me in your vote last night. It is time for you to go. I will remember what you did in the April 2010 elections.

  7. The Translator10/06/2009 10:40 AM

    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Milkie spend Sturtevant into a hole that they are just now starting to get out of. Now she is doing the same thing to Mt Pleasant. Hear that ringing, it's your wake up call. Time to answer the bell.

  8. Last night the staff let slip that Mt Pleasant does long-term borrowing for poice cars that last 2 - 3 years at the most. What that means is Mt Pleasant is paying for poice cars that Mt Pleasant no longer owns.

    Caledonia once did that until a former town chair stopped the practice. Unlike family cars that should last longer than the loan, police cars usually are on the road for a relatively short period of time so they should be paid for out of the operating budget, not long-term debt.

    This is all a sign of ongoing bad money management. For all those who seem to think Mt Pleasant is doing just fine under these folks, think again. For all the comforting words from staff, there are some real problems not very far under the shine.

    Will some new leaders willing to ask real questions please run for the Board in April.

  9. As a long time Mt. Pleasant citizen, I am begging someone of some backbone to please run in April 2010. I have been following the current trustees and I only find the three that voted last night to be the only ones willing to help save some money for the residents. Let;s keep Manning, Albeck and Flones but lets rid ourselves of Hewitt and Tiegal and keep Havn. He will at least talk to the citizens the other two will not give you the time of day unless you are asking for something that is not threatening to either him or her. Get rid of the PHD Tiegal no one is impressed with your degree. What it does is it let's the rest of us know you have an education and you can not and will not mix with the regular people.

  10. In last years village taxes the residents of Mount Pleasant paid 22% of those taxes on principle and interest on borrowed money. This year with the increased borrowing expect that percent to rise to 25% to pay for principle and interest. Thing of how much your taxes could be lower with less (borrowing)spending.

  11. Seems to me that is is constantly the same people that make all the negitive comments. Have any of you been to the PD and seen what they have to work with. Now that the size has been cut, the PD is going to be at capacity with in 5 years. I looked at the plans and have visited many other PD in the area and it seems that on the PD side it is being built for what is needed now and no more. maybe they can add on just as they did at the current location and have it also seperate from the building.

  12. The voting was all about how to save $3 million. Both motions were about getting 65,000 square feet. The Manning motion was about doing it for $10.5 million, and the Hewitt motion was for spending $13.5 million. The difference is $3 million.
    That is $162 per sq.ft. via the Manning motion and $208 per sq.ft.via the Hewitt motion. The difference being $46 per sq.ft.
    Examples indicated that the Town of Norway built a municipal headquarters for $90 per square foot, and that Horizon built new attractive office space (just south of Hwy 20 between Johnson's and Racine Federated) for $95 per square foot.
    It seemed rational to provide direction for the professionals to save $46 per square foot and still spend $67 more than the local examples.

  13. Anonymous 12:27. First let's stop trying to portray people who speak up about the doings in Mt. Pleasant as the same "negative comments". Left up to you, I presume no one would have a voice accept like minded people like you. Well , this is a democracy the last time I checked and healthy debates are good for the country, good for our local community and good for the soul. Of course, I am not speaking for you but for myself and those who do speak up. Second, you paint these people who speak up as people who do not do their homework. There have been several people including some of the Mt. Pleasant trustees who have visited other town halls to get ideas. You are not the only one who does their homework. Yet, some of these trustees also think the $13.5 is way too much. What I gathered from your reply is you do not want people to have a different view from yours, the remarks about the PD was purely a smokescreen to disallow other voices to be heard.

  14. Lets see. cut the building size, get rid of the so called unneeded range and it will save money. Lets see. The pd has approx 45 officers and they train maybe every other month (6)with fire arms for maybe 2 hours. Add in the cost of ammo and we get.
    45 x $200 = $9000 approx per training.
    $9000 x 6 = $54000 approx just for fire arms training. and thats not including when they have to do make up session for the officers that may be on vacation or in court or gone for some other reason. To me it seems that some of the cuts are in the wrong place. Remember the numbers are approx.

  15. The original PD request was for a pistol range,(no other dept. in area has one)and a 31 car garage. Present cop cars equal 21, projected officers in future, 3 still short and 5 later. Locker space increase to 100??, but officers only to 48. Future growth of village to 36K in 20 years. Why the large size? Who is pushing this wish list?

  16. dont they also have several motorcycles, speed trailers and some type of regular trailer that is behind their building. Not that the size of the garage would really cut that much of the cost. That is probally the cheepest part of the building.

  17. A resident in an earlier meeting made a lot of sense but the Board didn't listen. The idea was to build the building that would be needed for the future but not finish everything inside until the money became avaialble and there was a need for the finished space. That would eliminate the worry about not being big enough or needing to add on but still not so the epensive stuff until the economy got better. The comment was made after the police chief stated the cost of finishing out things like dispatch and firing range. Not sure why the board seems bent to do everything in the middle of what will likely be called a depression in the future. The board needs to push back on the staff and designers to get them to come up with something that can be built for long-term needs but not finish the inside areas now if they are not needed.

    I sat waiting for someone on the board to ask the staff or design folks if that could be done. Instead they just went on with the only plan on the table. That is not leadership.

  18. It seems that we had some very good candidates this past April election. Some strong opponents ready and willing to take on the powers that be and put Milkie in her place. No one wanted to run against her. Can you blame them with her loving daddy beating down doors to get her re-elected. But the majority of Mt.Pleasant residents didn't even get out there and vote. And the ones that cared enough to vote were actually able to get one person in office that would be able to speak up for the residents. I'm ashamed that so many people are now saying how they won't vote for Hewitt next election but when push comes to shove either they won't vote at all or they still vote for him because they will have forgotten about all of this. We've had choices in the past and yet these jokers still get re-elected. When are the residents going to wake up?

  19. A local Mt. Pleasant Citizen group (CAMP) is working hard to get the information out to the residents but what happens is people forget when it comes time to vote. We certainly need some fresh ideas and blood in the village, from the administrator on down past Milkie to the trustees. Problems is people forget when the times are bit better but hold your purse wallets, you continue to let Hewitt, Tiegal, Milkie, Andreasen control the village hall and we will not be in the same boat we are in now, we will be begging for a life preserver. There is also a force at the village that wishes to badmouth this citizen group because they are nervous to have a group like this talking to the residents, something the current village will not do and can not do. So they send out their cronies to badmouth these regular citizens. I know many of them in this group and they are dedicated to getting the news out to the residents. Have you ever had so much information before? Mt.Pleasant has never seen a group like this citizens's group. I hope they stay in business and do not let the village cronies and their friends disband them. Like Racinepost, we need another voice like CAMP.

  20. Carolyns's Castle is finished and such a deal the residents of Mt Pleasant received. In October of 2009 the Mt. Pleasant's Trustees and Building Committee approved the construction cost of 13.5 million for the complex. Now it is being stated that the final figure is close to 21 million. Guess what taxpayers? You got "Mielked" again.
    When the heck are people going to wake up? But I guess it's only money.