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Utility for work on sidewalks, roads?
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MONROE - Property owners in the city may be asked to pay a transportation fee in lieu of property assessments to raise funds for work on roads and sidewalks.

The idea was presented Tuesday to the City of Monroe's Finance and Taxation Committee. The planning firm Ruekert-Mielke is pitching to be hired by the city at a cost of $40,000 to do a feasibility study and public outreach for a new utility. But the committee decided to have a second visit with the firm that is expected sometime next month and will be open to the public.

A transportation utility would work much like a water utility or stormwater utility.

Christy Cramer, who made Tuesday's presentation, suggested the proposed utility be funded by every user, paying a portion based on trips generated per day. The number of trips generated would be statistically figured using a survey and a "generation manual" placing users into 150 different categories.

Properties will be assessed a value based on the number of times people come and go from the location. A single-family home, for example, only would be assessed a value of one trip. Larger, higher-traffic generating structures, like a church, would be assessed a higher value and billed more under the utility.

"We need to do some pre-work first, talk with the school, before we throw $40,000 against the wall," Alderman Dan Henke said.

Transportation utilities have been proposed in Wisconsin before, but none have come to reality, the committee was told.

The Monroe City Council voted 8-1 Monday to have the idea be taken up by the Finance and Taxation Committee. Alderman Thurston Hanson, Ward 6, voted against the motion, calling the utility "another tax." Alderman Neal Hunter was absent.

Committee members Kent Kallembach, Mark Coplien, Charles Koch and Dan Henke put the brakes on Tuesday. Committee members had questions about how a utility would be received by residents, schools, non-profits and companies.

Koch said he receives a lot of calls on the stormwater utility and said the city has problems trying to sell it.

Alderman Mark Coplien said the council needs to be careful with non-profits, including schools, that normally would be included in a utility.

Cramer told council members on Monday that exempting non-profits and schools would make the utility not based on users, since churches and schools produce a lot of trips.

An estimated minimum of $30,000 would need to be spent for a feasibility study and implementation, and $10,000 for public outreach.

Mayor Ron Marsh outlined areas of the budget where the money could be used to fund the initial utility costs. These costs would be absorbed by the utility once it is in place, and not all the costs would be payable this year, he said.

The funds Marsh suggested using include: $4,000 from sidewalks, $6,000 from materials for road and sidewalks; $10,000 from parking ramp maintenance; $5,000 marketing; and $10,000 from the contingency fund. An additional $10,000 from the parking ramp would set the amount at $45,000, allowing $5,000 for unexpected costs

The contingency fund is at $112,000 now.