January 27, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Neighbors in West Bend are abuzz about the news Milwaukee Tool will be building a manufacturing plant in West Bend.“It’s huge for West Bend,” said District 5 alderman Rich Kasten. “It shows we can play with the big boys and start to build back some of that manufacturing we lost over the decades.”
The location for the new $26 million plant that will manufacture hand tools is the new TIF 14 located to the south of Rusco Road along the east side of River Road. According to City Administrator Jay Shambeau, Milwaukee Tool will be in the 62 acres of Area A with the road extended off Rail Way.
-The proposed $26 million plant will manufacture hand tools for professional electricians and utility linemen.
-Ground breaking is expected to be in April 2020 with the plant opening in early 2021.
-The deal to build in West Bend happened quickly and West Bend won out over a competing location in Indiana.
City Administrator Jay Shambeau said West Bend was able to secure a deal with Milwaukee Tool because the “City is within close proximity to to their corporate headquarters in Brookfield and its proposed additional corporate presence in Menomonee Falls. Plus the sheer size of our industrial park with ample room for expansion helped set us apart.”
I look forward to madcap chicken hijinks for years to come.
Jan. 7, 2019 – West Bend, WI – For the third time in his tenure as Mayor of West Bend Kraig Sadownikow cast the deciding vote and this time it was on the issue of whether to allow chickens in West Bend.
“The property rights topic is important to me,” said Sadownikow. “We allow lots of other types of animals in the community that have less restrictions than chickens do. We have lots of other fowl in the city; most folks will recognize there’s a growing population of turkeys around West Bend and chickens give a great opportunity for education for kids, with the collection of eggs and the number of folks taking advantage of proposed legislation will probably be pretty limited.”
The vote that led to the mayor’s tiebreaker was 4 – 4; Aldermen voting in favor of allowing chickens included aldermen Mike Christian, Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins and Justice Madl.
Alderman opposing chickens included John Butschlick, Rich Kasten, Steve Hoogester, and Roger Kist.
Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.
Most often, good government is boring government. For the better part of a decade, the goings on at the city of West Bend have been boring. The city has paid off debt, kept spending and taxes down, increased the fund balance, improved the city’s bond rating, controlled costs, etc. — all while maintaining and improving essential services and tackling a couple of big projects. Boring? Yes. But it is precisely the kind of boring that is the hallmark of good government.
At the dawn of the current decade, West Bend was in trouble. The city had been transitioning from a vibrant manufacturing and commercial center to more of a mixed economy. The presence of county government, MPTC, UWWC, and other government entities helped insulate some city residents from the worst of the Great Recession, but the private sector was hit hard. Unemployment peaked at 14.1 percent and wages were down.
City government was struggling to make ends meet. In 2010, the debt service of almost $6 million per year to make payments on $80 million in debt consumed over 23 percent of the city’s operations budget. The city’s unassigned fund balance was floating at about 11 percent — well below the standard of 17 percent that the Government Finance Officers Association (GFAO) considers the benchmark for fiscal stability. City leaders at the time were using debt as a crutch to maintain bloated spending without raising taxes in a community that has always been resistant to tax increases.
West Bend needed a change. West Bend needed leadership.
Following the Great Recession, many local residents, many of whom were energized by the Tea Party movement sweeping the nation, began to look to their own communities. In West Bend, strong conservatives began running for local office with an eye to infusing city government with conservative leadership. Conservatives like Tony Turner (2008), Ed Duquaine (2010), Steve Hutchins (2011), Randy Koehler (2011), Kraig Sadownikow (2011) and others challenged more liberal incumbents and won with a strong conservative agenda.
As 2019 dawns, the residents of West Bend can see the results of several years of conservative leadership. For several years, the city has been steadily paying off debt without adding to it. This has brought the $80 million debt down to $53 million — a 34 percent reduction in total debt. The payments on that debt have dropped from $5.94 million in 2010 to a budgeted $3.74 million in 2019. That is a drop from 23 percent of the city’s operations budget to just under 15 percent and has freed up $2.2 million in budget that can now be spent on city services instead of debt.
Meanwhile, the Unassigned Fund Balance, which used to sit at a paltry 11 percent, is now a healthy 25 percent. The increase in this fund balance above the recommended floor of 17 percent is one of the driving factors behind the city’s improving bond rating.
Through all of this, the city has kept spending flat. In 2019, the city of West Bend’s Operations Budget will be $25.25 million. That is $0.1 million decrease from the 2010 budget. Accounting for inflation, the city has been reducing spending while reducing debt and taxes. Meanwhile, city services are as good as ever, downtown is thriving, and the city’s private sector economy is blossoming.
None of this happened by magic. Mayor Sadownikow and the conservatives on the Common Council have accomplished this by making smart, conservative decisions over and over again while not succumbing to chattering spenders constantly in their ears.
For example, in 2012 there was a legitimate need to renovate and expand the city hall and city police department, which are in the same building. Ideas ranged from building a new facility for the police department to moving city hall into downtown to renovating the existing building. The price tag ranged into the tens of millions. In the end, city leaders took the prudent step of doing just what they needed to renovate the existing building at a cost of $8.6 million. Some of the aldermen even picked up some hammers to volunteer their labor for part of the demolition to control costs. It wasn’t a flashy new building, but it served the needs of the community.
Another seemingly small decision with big dividends was getting employee benefits under control with the power of Act 10 and negotiating with the fire and police unions. For example, for years, part of the West Bend contract with our firefighters allowed them to convert sick leave to health insurance payments when they retired as early as age 52. While it made sense when health insurance was cheap decades ago, it had ballooned into a $17 million unfunded liability for city taxpayers.
Through negotiations and cooperation with the firefighters union, the city began pulling back that obligation in 2013 and are eliminating it in 2019. City taxpayers will honor the obligation for older employees, but replace it with a funded Post Employment Health Plan for new employees. This will completely eliminate the city’s unfunded liability bomb with the next generation of city firefighters while still providing for their post retirement needs.
Good local government is not about fancy new buildings, flamboyant politicians, or flashy initiatives. It is about good decisions, rooted in common sense and humble restraint, consistently made for the long term benefit of the community. The city of West Bend is doing it right.
Special meeting Thursday to save the downtown theatre bridge by Judith A. Steffes: A special meeting is set for Thursday, Dec. 10 as the Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District (BID) Board meets at 8 a.m. to discuss and make a decision regarding surety of existing pedestrian bridge downtown.
– – This is a story you will read first at Washington County Insider – –
After months of meetings, a public hearing and a survey, a West Bend committee is ready to tell the city to continue down the same road it has been going when it comes to street repairs.
“We will be recommending to the Common Council that there be no significant changes to the funding of street maintenance over and above the yearly increases that have already been planned,” Alderman Rich Kasten, chairman of the Long Range Transportation Committee said after what could be its last meeting Tuesday night, as the only item on the agenda was to review a draft of the recommendations.
When the rubber meets the road — how to pay for road repairs — the No. 1 response by the survey-takers was to “continue with the current plan,” followed by holding a referendum to increase taxes and, lastly, establish a wheel tax to support road improvements.
Hey, this is big news for West Bend! The Washington County Insider reports: