By Lisa Dawsey Smith
Whitewater Banner Staff
The Common Council met virtually again on June 2. City Manager Cameron Clapper reported that the major street and utility reconstruction projects on Milwaukee St./Elkhorn Road and Clay Street are progressing well. The Cravath Lakefront Park amphitheater structure has arrived and is being installed. The Municipal Building reopened on June 1. Citizens having business in the building are encouraged to wear a mask. A virtual town hall meeting that will include a city operations and university update, resources for businesses, and Q&A will be held on Thursday evening at 5:30. The public is encouraged to participate. Information regarding registration is found on the Banner.
Finance Director Steve Hatton indicated that the state Public Service Commission (PSC) held a public hearing on May 26 in response to the rate case that was filed for the water utility. There were no public comments at the hearing. It is anticipated that a decision will be announced within the next ten days, likely resulting in an increase of approximately $3.54 per month for an average residential user of 3,000 gallons. The city is required to implement whatever decision the PSC announces. There was no way for the city to have known when the case was submitted in May, 2019 what the extraordinary economic situation would be today.
Police Chief Aaron Raap reflected on the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resulting protests around the nation. Mr. Raap spoke of his and the department’s philosophy of community policing and their policies around use of force, including the fact that citizen complaints against an officer are reviewed by four persons in the chain of command, including himself. The Chief indicated that he expects the community to hold the personnel accountable, and encourages citizens to file a complaint any time they experience or see a police action that they feel is inappropriate, as well as reporting if they see something good occur. Our officers are trained in deescalation, fair and impartial policing, and positive interactions with the public. Chief Raap will be issuing a public statement on Wednesday, June 3.
An ordinance prohibiting the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores was adopted. Although there is no such establishment in the city at this time, it was indicated that such animals often come from “mills” where poor treatment routinely contributes to poor health, behavioral issues and the like. Megan Nicholson, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Humane Society, congratulated the Council for the action, indicating that we are the first municipality in Wisconsin with such an ordinance, although similar measures have been adopted in many cities and states around the nation.
Finance Director Steve Hatton reported on the annual financial audit by Johnson Block CPAs. Johnson Block issued an unqualified (or “clean”) opinion. The auditors commented on the operating deficit for the Aquatic and Fitness Center, something which city staff have been devoting considerable attention to since the city took over the operations. Otherwise it was a good year for the city financially. The organization has a goal of maintaining a 20% unassigned fund balance, a target which was reached for the first time in many years at the end of 2019, with a 22.5% “reserve ratio.” This provides a cushion which can be used in case of unanticipated major events.
The following individuals were appointed to the Library Board: Doug Anderson and Lisa Dawsey Smith as regular members, and Steve Smith and Jennifer Motszko as alternate members.