Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill goes on the record
With no one challenging him on the April 1 ballot, Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill is a shoo-in for re-election.
The Star-Observer, nevertheless, reached out to the mayor for a sense of where the city is headed in the next couple of years.
Burchill, the mayor since November 2010, was asked the same questions that City Council candidates answer in this edition of the newspaper.
He also addresses the questions that Mary Claire Potter asked council candidates in interviews on the River Channel (cable channel 15) program “Western Wisconsin Journal.”
Burchill said he looks forward to continuing the street repair program that is part of a five-year capital spending plan adopted by the City Council a year a half ago.
“I’d like to continue to do things that were started in the city as far as improving the quality of our infrastructure,” he said. “I think it’s making a better place for all of our residents to live in. That’s the main reason why I’m doing it (running for another term) –- to volunteer.”
He said another goal of his for the coming term is to address the downtown parking issue. Many merchants and restaurant owners have said there is a need for additional parking.
Burchill said another study of downtown parking has been completed and he expects the new council to act on it. Purchasing property for another city lot or building a parking ramp are two of the options the mayor expects to be considered.
Asked what he expects will be the most important issue the City Council faces in the coming year, Burchill named the proposed annexation of 45 acres on the east side of Carmichael Road and north of Interstate 94. Part of the land is proposed for the site of a Super Walmart store.
“I think it is way too early to make a determination whether that is a good thing or not,” the mayor said.
The most important issue to him concerning the proposed annexation, he said, is the impact on local traffic. He said a study assessing the effect of the planned development on local roads has been completed, and will soon be reviewed by the Plan Commission.
“Development in a controlled manner that fits what we need in the community is a good thing. It generates more revenue for us,” he added.
Burchill said that given the state limit on tax levy increases, the city needs to grow its tax base to increase spending.
He also expects the city to begin work on a development plan for the Carmichael Road corridor between I-94 and Vine Street in the coming year.
The other thing that could happen, he said, is that the owners of the Hudson Golf Club could come forward with a proposal for commercial and/or residential development of the golf course.
“That’s a very important issue. It’s 123 acres right in the middle of our city,” he said.
Burchill said public safety and public works are his top priorities for spending.
“It’s pretty nuts and bolts at the local level,” he said. Residents need a safe community, along with good streets and water and sewer utilities that function well.
He said he would give Hudson’s streets and other infrastructure a grade of B.
“That’s one of the reasons we put together the five-year plan -– to try to make it a B+ or A,” he added.
He noted that the City Council established a Storm Water Utility a couple of years ago to generate money to maintain and repair storm sewers and ponds.
“We’re cleaning those up. We’re not going to release quite as bad water into the St. Croix River,” he said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Asked if there is anywhere that the city can reduce spending, Burchill said he is always looking for those opportunities.
He said the council is considering the purchase of LED streetlights that would bring big savings on the city’s monthly electric bill.
When a city employee retires or quits, the council reviews the position to see if it can be combined with another position, he added.
He also identified employee health insurance costs as a place where he will be looking for savings. The city was able to reduce its health insurance costs by leaving the state plan, but rates through a private plan have been climbing again.
In addition, the city has tried to improve efficiency and reduce costs through the purchase of new equipment and technology.
Burchill cited the council’s recent approval of the purchase of a new street sweeper as an example. City employees will be able to empty the new sweeper on location, saving trips to the disposal site on Krattley Lane in North Hudson, and allowing them to do more sweeping.
“We’re not going to lay somebody off because we got a new street sweeper, but maybe we can do a better job,” Burchill said.
Asked what his ideas are for improving the financial stability of the Hudson Area Joint Library, Burchill noted that the city and the other municipal partners approved a 5 percent increase in tax funding for the library in 2014.
He also praised Library Board President Rich O’Connor and the other board members, saying they are working with the Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation on raising private funds.
“We need to be fair with our library and do the best we can at trying to increase the funding. But again, it gets back to how much money is left over and priorities,” he said.
St. Croix Meadows
Asked whether the City Council should reconsider its decision not to rezone the vacant St. Croix Meadows dog track to be the site of a new high school, Burchill said it is up to the owners of the property to petition for rezoning.
“The owners of the property always have the right to come and ask for whatever they want, the City Council doesn’t dictate that,” he said.
“Personally, I’m very open to anything -– if there is a new plan or a different plan that may be coming down the pike that I might not know about.”
He said a proposal for mixed public-private use of the property would get a fair review by him and the council.
Asked whether there are developers interested in the dog track property, the mayor replied, “Oh, absolutely.”
He said it is his understanding that there is a developer who has an option to purchase the entire dog track property.