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De Pere seeking outside help to fund aquatic facilities

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – The De Pere mayor and city staff will ask neighboring communities to contribute to the pool of money for the two aquatic facilities to be built on either side of the city in the coming years.

The referendum, which De Pere taxpayers passed on Nov. 6, gave the city permission to spend more than the tax levy by up to $900,000 per year for an indefinite number of years to build and operate the facilities that will replace the public pools at Legion Park on the east side and VFW Park on the west.

It represents an increase in property taxes of about 7 percent.

But in recent meetings of the Board of Park Commissioners, it’s been brought up that non-residents use De Pere’s public pools, too.

The towns of Lawrence and Ledgeview and village of Allouez are on the list of municipalities that visit.

According to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, other pool users come from Bellevue, Rockland, Hobart, Ashwaubenon, Wrightstown and Morrison.

Answering Alderman Scott Crevier’s questions Jan. 15, on how this might work and what De Pere would be asking for, City Administrator Larry Delo said he would expect the other municipalities to ask that their constituents to not have to pay non-resident fees to use the pools and possibly other De Pere city programs and facilities.

“It depends on what you’re willing to negotiate,” Delo said. “Part of that could be that they would contribute capital upfront or help pay off the debt load over time to substantiate that offset in cost.”

Past conversations in similar situations with other municipalities have resulted in border agreement discussions, Delo said.

“It depends on what that community is looking for and what they want,” he said.

Crevier said it’s good to talk to neighbors, but long-term agreements might not be feasible.

“At this point, it’s still too early. We can’t give them any say in what we would build and how much it would cost; De Pere residents have input into that,” Crevier said, suggesting short-term agreements of three to five years that would benefit both sides of the equation and to which neither party is bound to for very long.

Alderman Daniel Carpenter agreed.

“This is still a long ways out since most communities have their budgets done by now; we’re not talking money coming in any time soon,” said Carpenter. “I have no problem reaching out, but I think with these border agreements, when you want to change something or bring something to these communities, there’s a lot more they’re going to be asking for and wanting, good or bad, and it’s unfortunate to say, but they usually don’t work out.”

Mayor Mike Walsh said he wants to engage a commitment from the communities, whether long- or short-term, but it isn’t his intent to tie the city to an agreement that extends beyond the pool funding.

“To go further than just this specific project is out of the realm,” he said. “We can see what they want (in return) but I don’t see it going much beyond this project.”

The council voted unanimously to allow Walsh and staff members to approach other municipalities for funding.

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