Heated debate at city council ends in request denial
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – After nearly an hour of discussion, some of which got heated, the city council voted Tuesday, Oct. 1, to deny a request for the city to split the cost of installing a private storm sewer system with property owner Jeremy Kroll to address surface water drainage issues on his property at 1661-1663 Elkay Lane.
This is the second time the issue was in front of the full council.
When Kroll purchased the site he said he was unaware a private storm sewer was required to be installed to alleviate the drainage issues.
The item was referred back to committee at the Sept. 17 council meeting for staff to consult with the law department for an opinion on the matter.
Kroll said he believes this misunderstanding is the fault of the city, and he would like the city to pick up the tab.
“I absolutely think the city is responsible,” Kroll said. “Put yourself in my shoes. You build a house and you get it all done and your builder comes to you says ‘Hey we found a memo that says you have to put in a drain.’”
Director of Public Works Steven Grenier said when it comes to drainage issues in the city, DPW’s purview is with public right of way and not private property.
Grenier confirmed the owner who vacated the property in the early 2000s knew if the property was to be developed, a drain would have to be installed.
“So that person would be the person that was responsible for telling the next buyer that this work had to be done, and not the city,” said District 4 Alderman Bill Galvin.
The majority of council members agreed the city was not at fault.
“Let me make this very clear, staff did absolutely nothing wrong,” said District 7 Alder Randy Scannell. “It is the responsibility of the developer and the buyer to find out what all goes with that property. That has nothing to do with the city.”
Scannell said staff did not create this problem and the city isn’t responsible for fixing it.
“Mr. Kroll is upset and said that staff should have told him from the get-go,” Scannell said. “OK, but even if staff had done so, the result would be the same. He would be responsible for that drain. Staff can’t read people’s minds and know what a developer knows and doesn’t know.”
Scannell said the item shouldn’t have even been brought to the council.
“There is no reason for this item to be on our agenda,” Scannell said. “If he has a complaint with the city, if he has a valid injury from the city, there is a process for that and this is not it. He should follow that process. He should be honoring that process.”
District 9 Alder Brian Johnson said he agrees staff did nothing wrong, but he said there was a breakdown in the process.
“The system did break down in terms of our processes and our ability to notify this individual,” Johnson said.
District 1 Alder Barbara Dorff said she agrees the system broke down, but also agrees it wasn’t staff’s fault and there were several people who had the responsibility to inform the current property owner of the necessary actions when he purchased the property.
Dorff said she was more concerned with what this decision would do in regards to precedence setting.
“What precedence might we set? Because I believe this has happened before to other people who will now be coming forward to us saying I would like half of my money back,” Dorff said.
Deputy City Attorney Joanne Bumgart said if the council approved this motion, it wouldn’t have set a legal precedence, but it would set a policy precedence.
“So it does certainly open the door for other issues like this to come before the council again,” Bumgart said. “It wouldn’t legally bind the council to continue providing actions like this, but if policy is set it is difficult to not.”
Kroll said if the council didn’t approve his request he would go the civil court route.
2020 parking division rates
Alders approved the 2020 Parking Division rates proposed by public works.
Per city policy, the parking division must generate its own revenue to cover operating expenses and facility maintenance.
The city’s parking division receives no funding from property tax revenue.
Therefore, when operating costs increase, parking rates and fees must increase to balance the budget.
All ramp hourly rates remain unchanged, however, council members approved a 5 cent increase to parking meter rates, going from 85 cents per hour to 90 cents per hour.
The proposal includes an increase to parking citation rates.
Overnight parking citations will increase from $15 to $22, no-parking citations increase from $25 to $35 and no-stopping/standing citations increase from $35 to $42.
Late fees also increased from $7 to $12 for one week late and from $15 to $22 for a month late.
A $2 processing fee is added to all citations.
All changes will go into effect Jan. 1.
Resolution for bridge renaming
Council members unanimously approved a resolution encouraging state legislators to rename the Walnut Street Bridge the Bart Starr Memorial Bridge to honor the late Green Bay Packers quarterback.
Because the bridge is part of State Highway 29, state legislation is needed to rename the bridge.
“This is a resolution from the city to state that we support the change,” said council president Mark Steuer, the alderman who brought up the idea at the city council meeting last month.
Steuer said State Rep. Staush Gruszynski is on board with pursuing the renaming.
“Great idea, wish I would have thought of it,” said Mayor Eric Genrich. “Thanks to our state delegation for moving forward with this change on a bipartisan basis. Hopefully we can get it through the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk.”