By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
The Whitewater Common Council met in person for the first time in over a year on June 1st in what is being labelled as a “hybrid” option that includes both in-person attendance and participation via computer or telephone. The new option was not without some technical difficulties.
Live broadcast on local access cable was temporarily not available and audio for remote attendees was nearly indistinguishable at times but City Manager Cameron Clapper said that steps are being taken to make technical improvements. In a previous meeting several Council members offered the observation that during the pandemic restriction period citizen participation via phone or computer was greater than previous in-person attendance because it was more convenient.
COVID-19 pandemic impacts were still reflected in the Common Council agenda for Tuesday’s meeting as the City of Whitewater’s facial covering ordinance was officially repealed and City Finance Director Steve Hatton’s report on the city’s 2020 financial audit detailed the pandemic’s financial impacts to city operations last year.
Hatton told council members that the audit revealed what he described as a “clean” review of the City’s financial performance. Revenues were down from projections in most categories as the result of reduced income from licensing fees, Aquatic Center revenue and delayed implementation of increased water rates that were suspended to help soften the financial impact of COVID-19 on city residents and businesses. A federal “Routes to Recovery” grant of $268,000, however, helped balance the 2020 city budget, which resulted in a surplus of over $280,000. The audit also documented success in reducing city debt and increasing city reserves.
In other action the Common Council renewed city alcohol licenses including the much-publicized renewal for Pumpers & Mitchells with an agreement that requires improved management practices and suspends the tavern’s operations from September 1 through the Halloween holiday weekend. The suspension agreement came in response to a Whitewater Police Department review of the large amount of police activity tied to the college student-oriented establishment.
The Council also authorized entering into an agreement with a company offering to provide battery powered e-scooters that will be stationed at various locations around town. Adults will be able to use scooters after using a charge card to activate the device. A representative of “Bird Rides” indicated that the anticipated charge per ride would generally be in the range of $5 or less depending on the number of minutes rented. The agreement is subject to final negotiations between the company and city staff and can be terminated at the city’s request after a trial period.
The Council also took steps to fill the seat of second district representative Matthew Schulgit who recently graduated from UW-Whitewater and has moved on to medical school. The second district covers an area that extends to the western boundary of the city and to the north ends at the Jefferson County line. The southern and eastern edges are more difficult to define. This map shows the district (click on “layers,” “aldermanic districts,” in the upper right hand corner), but the City Clerk can answer questions. The position will be up for reelection next April. District residents who are interested in knowing more about what is required of someone filling the vacant position are asked to contact City Clerk Michele Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-473-0102. Applications will be accepted for 30 days with interviews planned for the July 20 Common Council meeting.