From: Mike Kirschmann
Two front page stories in the 12/9/09 Winona Post caught my attention because of the sad irony of how they relate to each other: “Five % city tax increase possible” and right below it, “Winona pays for Phillips’ pipes”.
Until the Phillips/Sweetwater annexations, Wilson Township had always had a mostly friendly give/take relationship with the city of Winona. Wilson “gave” the city the Valley Oaks and Treetops subdivision lands, because they were contiguous, and Winona “took” them. Wilson wanted no part in developing them because of the environmental slope/bluff issues inherent in the properties. Treetops ended up costing city taxpayers a boat load of money, runoff, and headache.
When Phillips and Sweetwater requested annexation the City Council was told that there were already existing property owners ready/willing/able to hook up to the new pipes that would be run to those developments, defraying the cost of those pipes. It’s been over three years. Where are they?
Today Winona city taxpayers face a 5% tax increase in devastating economic times, largely because of a $1.3 million dollar pipe bill for subsidizing this private Phillips development. Even though city leaders claimed they needed this land because the city needed room to grow, three years later no homes have been built, and only one lot sold. Not even a shovel of dirt has been turned anywhere at Sweetwater.
The city budget is now short $300,000 in the coming year, with more shortfalls to come. Twelve city employees have already been laid off.
If these annexations hadn’t occurred (for the very reasons Wilson Township argued against the annexations), would city taxes need to go up 5% and would twelve employees have already lost their jobs with more to come?
How will the city’s new slope/bluff ordinance affect the buildability of these annexed properties if it is fairly applied to meet the stated purposes of the ordinance?
Does the Winona City Council have the backbone to hold those responsible for their poor and financially costly advice accountable? If they don’t, maybe the Winona city taxpayers should hold the City Council itself accountable.