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City copes with debt, crumbling buildings

Clintonville tries to cut borrowing

By Bert Lehman

The city of Clintonville’s efforts to reduce future borrowing are being complicated by the deterioration of the city’s buildings.

Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland told the city’s finance committee on July 9 that she is trying to keep the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, “as is” for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“Some of the department heads have run into some additional issues that were not planned or [equipment] that they thought would last a little longer, so there may be some changes to that,” Eveland said. “But I’ve pretty much made it clear to them that the available funds, the total funds that we budgeted, is what is available. We can’t have a bunch of increases or items that were reduced shooting back up again because we don’t have additional funds.”

Eveland said she plans on reducing the amount of funds the city borrows during its next round of borrowing. She hopes the city will borrow only $1.75 million.

“It’s not much of a decrease, but if we look at what we’ve historically been borrowing it is still moving in the right direction,” she said. “I just don’t think we can move very far very quickly.”

In order for the city to accomplish and obtain everything in its CIP, the city will rely on securing available grants, Eveland said.

She asked committee members for their thoughts on borrowing and the CIP.

Committee member Jim Supanich said the city is committed to “some type” of debt reduction.

“We had to put a policy in place aiming at a substantial reduction [in borrowing] eventually,” Supanich said. “And we committed to the auditors that we’d continue a debt reduction program.”

Because of that, Supanich said the city has to commit to at least a minimal reduction in borrowing.

He added that he has noticed some items missing from the CIP that the city needs to be concerned about, especially the condition of city facilities.

“We need to come up with some monies to cover those types of things,” Supanich said.

Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hankins said the city needs to develop a long-term plan regarding maintaining and replacing its facilities.

Eveland said she did include a facilities study in the CIP in 2021.

She added that projects included in the CIP have been pushed back because the city doesn’t have the funds to pay for the projects.

“I would really like to get us to a point where what we approve for five years [in the CIP] is pretty well set,” Eveland said.

Because of the condition of the Clintonville Public Works building and the Clintonville Fire Department building, Supanich recommended the city solicit an engineering study on both buildings.

Eveland said a facility study would include a full assessment over every building owned by the city. She said it would be similar to the study the city had done on the Clintonville Rec Center building last year.

In addition to looking at the condition of city buildings, the study would also evaluate space needs for the city and how to use available space efficiently.

Supanich said he understands what a facilities study would entail, but he’s not sure the city can wait that long for a study on some of its buildings.

“We need to look at what we have to do to stretch the life out of those buildings until we get the study done,” Supanich said. “The last thing we want is to have a building collapse and no place to go.”

Committee member Ben Huber asked how much a facilities study would cost.

Eveland said probably $30,000 to $40,000 for a facilities study that included every city building.

Hankins said that is a significant amount of money, but spending that money might help the city save money in the long run by focusing on long-term solutions rather than spending on temporary solutions.

Supanich agreed.

“I’m not looking to put $100,000 into building repairs,” Supanich said. “But keep in mind we haven’t been doing any building maintenance. We turned down a request by the fire chief last year to get an engineer to look at the building because the wall is moving out. We have to maintain this building at least reasonably long until we get the study done. What I’m looking at is some short term, quick repairs, we can keep it in the $5,000 to $6,000 range just to keep the building together.”

No final decisions were made regarding any study.

Borrowing limits
At the end of 2017, the city’s debt capacity was at $4.4 million, meaning that is the maximum amount the city could borrow.

In an email to the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, Eveland said since the city borrowed $1.8 million in 2018, until the end of 2018, after it retires approximately $1 million in debt, the city has the capacity to borrow only $2.6 million.

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