All content, of both the original Brookfield7.com and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986
- Name: KYLE PRAST
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The HRPS report: All 5 vote Yes, not all enthusiastic about the recommendation
This is how the meeting unfolded:
Alderman Mahkorn, chair of the committee, asked for some background. Dean Marquardt gave a little history of our fire stations. He mentioned the cost to rebuild & relocate the stations has already been factored into our taxes so there would be no noticeable jump. He also cited a number of statistics that I do not buy into (to be addressed in a future blog).
First out of the gate to heartily support the Task Force resolution was Alderman Reddin. He approved the move because it was best for the majority of people.
Next Alderman Balzer said he did not have a problem with moving station #2 (Lilly & Capitol), because it needed updating. He also wanted the City to engage in further negotiations with the Town for the 4th station. His next response surprised me—it is not in his district. He said, station #3 (Moorland) is in a good location near the expressway, hotels, (etc.), it should be rebuilt on that spot.
Alderman Garvins concurred with the Task Force: move them and sell off the old land.
Alderman Franz agreed with Balzer: Station #3 should stay where it’s at and we should keep negotiating. “Are we still trying to negotiate”, he asked?
Mahkorn realizes he has 2 no votes. The measure would still pass, but he wants consensus. So he now tries to deflate Balzer and Franz’s position of keeping #3 where it is. He defines Franz’s statement as: keep #3 where it is because we might be able to work out an arrangement with the Town. (Trouble is, I don’t know if that was his position. It seemed to me Franz just thought #3 was in the best position regardless of the Town’s offer.) Then Mahkorn adds, I would be surprised if the Town’s proposal would come to pass—it shouldn’t be considered tonight. Then he goes to the big gun: “Would the Town’s offer change your opinion Chief Dahms?”
Chief Dahms, a bit taken aback, but explains: We’ve exhausted exploratory efforts...This is a tough question. Then he quotes the report: Relocation of 2 & 3 captures 13% more people into the 4 min. travel zone, reaching 70 % of households, etc. etc.
Mahkorn then goes on about how we made every effort to negotiate and how the current gesture won’t come to pass. He states his support for the resolution because he cannot justify leaving the (poor) quality of those buildings. (What happened to remodeling or rebuilding at the same location?) He goes on justifying his rationale for supporting the Task Force findings. That rationale was so illogical (too much to go into here, it will be a future blog).
Balzer then states his position again: I think everyone on the panel agrees that the fire stations need rebuilding, but I really have a problem about moving #3. You talk about a life threatening situation—needing to get to the freeway is very important! We need to discuss 1 more time with the Town—you don’t know if/where we are going to have an entrance to the freeway (at Calhoun).
Mahkorn: Would you still feel that way if the town wouldn’t work out?
Balzer: No, but I need to try one more time. Station #3 covers the whole east end and moving it covers ½ of New Berlin! (That fact does not change if the Town addition works out or not!)
Mahkorn clearly does not want to let Balzer be. He pressures Balzer to cave.
Reddin then says, I agree about the Town—it would be silly not to find out what the Town would do. But we should still move ahead and then if the Town works out, great.
Now Mahkorn works on Franz. Would your decision be the same if the Town would not work out? Franz mumbles something inaudible. Must have been a “no” because then Mahkorn asks Marquardt to fashion a motion.
The committee chats while Marquardt works on the motion. Balzer does not like it. He says he is uncomfortable without an amendment about the Town negotiations...he would have to vote NO because he wants to see more negotiating on this.
Reddin says there are plenty of chances to weigh in on this. (He may be too new to realize that the more times something passes committees, the more compelling the measure becomes. Few things ever get voted down later.)
Balzer then asks Dahms, What are your thoughts if we had a Town agreement? Would #3 still need to be moved? Now Dahms really is at a loss for words. He cites the track record of failure, then says #3 would not necessarily need moving, but adds, if located at Calhoun, the fire crew could go either to Barker or Moorland’s entrance ramps.
Mahkorn again states he has never been adverse to negotiating and Balzer again states his reservations about moving #3. Mahkorn really pushes, But if the Town isn’t there...to which Balzer states, We need 1 more try!
The motion language is set—the committee approves the Task Force recommendations with the condition the Council pursues providing fire service to the town for the originally discussed (terms?). 5 yea votes, Balzer adds, Reluctantly.
So there you have it. Under cross examination, the witness caves in. Mahkorn is good at what he does, he is an assistant district attorney after all! The sad part is, no one ever questioned if the Task Force recommendation was a good one or not. It was an all or nothing proposition. It did not have to be. Such is life in Brookfield.
Whose Master Plan are we following anyway? Part 3
This is the way I see it, in 3 parts. (Read Part 1 and Part 2 first)
At present, there is discussion that our fire stations are in need of extensive repairs and remodeling. The city says the remodeling will cost almost as much as new buildings. The idea of relocating them and building new is explored by a task force. The cost for this is between $4 and $6 million. Relocated where? Calhoun Road! All three on the same road. No matter that the area without 4 minute response times has increased, and the area of overlapping 4 minute response times increased too.
Station 3 would be relocated to Calhoun near Greenfield; station 2 to Calhoun near Capitol. Interestingly, both new locations are very near the developer’s properties (Capitol Heights, Willow Brook, Stanford Place, Berkshire Heights, Berkshire Hills, The Haven, and Vincent Park in the north). These properties now all fall within the 4 minute zone. Somehow, this benefits him: lower insurance rates possibly? His future convention center property already was in the Moorland fire station 4 minute zone, but he needed the station moved to Calhoun Road to legitimize the new Calhoun interchange.
The new site on Greenfield and Calhoun Road may not have been considered for a fire station if that south of the interstate section of Calhoun remained a 2 lane road at 25 mph. But, not to worry, the widening to 4 lanes and increase to 35mph has already been approved. People are objecting to the Calhoun relocation site for many reasons. Some point out it has no immediate interstate access. Not to worry, again: The neutral replacement bridge could accommodate an interchange! So, moving fire station 3 creates an artificial need to add an interchange.
You can see the relocation of fire station 3 is the key to the developer’s convention center success. That relocation will set into motion the remaining pieces of the puzzle for the developer’s convention center (or whatever he is planning). The fire station move will validate the road widening (conveniently already included in a previous budget?) It will necessitate the interchange addition at Calhoun to provide a faster response time to interstate accidents.
Where is the developer in all of this? That remains a mystery. Can we assume he is not involved at all in city planning? No, we cannot. Why? Because historically, he was involved in discussions with the City concerning the trade for Swanson school (Remember the Swanson Swap was a school district issue not a city issue.)
The developer is a very intelligent man and is good at what he does: He builds beautiful properties (too dense, but attractive). He is patient. He is careful not to have filed any plans yet with the city. When asked what he is planning for that vacant parcel, the city can say, we don’t know—no plans have been filed. Yet the city is planning a colossal widening project for the adjacent roadway, fire protection, and an interchange as if they do know.
You tell me, whose master plan are they following?
Coming up next: Report from the HRPS committee
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Sorry Steve, they are calling it $100 million!
Steve Schwei knocked $500,000 off from the price tag in an effort to massage the public's perception of the referendum as $99 million instead of $100 million. (Much like retailers calling something $9.99 rather than $10.00.) I am sure the voters will be fooled by that one!
This morning on the news, the reporter spouted the headline: Elmbrook approves a $100 million referendum, the most expensive in state history. Sorry Steve, your plan did not work.
More about this later...I can only deal with one horrendous waste of taxpayer money at a time!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Whose Master Plan are we following anyway? Part 2
This is the way I see it, in 3 parts. (Read Part 1 first)
The entire section of Calhoun Road between Bluemound and Greenfield is in great need of repaving. The north section, from Bluemound to the interstate, could use some lane improvements. The stretch south of the interstate is purely residential and posted at 25mph. It is not heavily used. Somehow the city’s engineering department is portraying this section as heavily used--needing widening and an increase in speed limit!
Because of the widened road, the interstate overpass bridge is no longer adequate. It now needs to be replaced, even though the DOT has no plans to replace it for years to come. Brookfield taxpayers must now shoulder the expense of the premature replacement rather than it being a routine state expense.
The replacement interstate bridge is deemed interchange neutral, even though its configuration is obviously preparing for an interchange. Most Brookfield residents, according to a city survey, did not list an interchange as a priority. The DOT does not believe this is a good location either, citing that an interchange at Calhoun and I-94 would be dangerous, because it is less than 1 mile from the Moorland interchange. These objections do not matter—the city proceeds with its plans to replace the bridge in a non- neutral interchange fashion.
To be continued...
Whose Master Plan are we following anyway? Part 1
This is the way I see it, in 3 parts.
Suppose there was a developer who wanted to build a huge convention center on Bluemound Road. He saw the potential in some vacant farm land on Bluemound and in an adjacent older farm on Calhoun Road. Calhoun is just a two lane, rural road; however, it does pass under the interstate. The developer knows an interchange and widened road are necessary for a successful convention center. Successful developments translate to good return on investment.
There is also a small strip mall, gas station, and office building on the corner of this acreage, but the developer knows in due time, those could be purchased too. The strip mall and gas station owners do not want to sell. Eminent domain may be necessary to obtain those properties. He can wait for them.
Unfortunately, there is a grade school located in the middle of this prime real estate on the Calhoun side. How could he get that? In May of 2003, he offers to build the community a new school on the district’s land a few miles east of this location in exchange for the existing grade school.
Meanwhile, he purchases the old Ruby farm and vacant WTMJ land, and buys the tiny office building too. That just leaves the school, gas station and strip mall. Once those properties are obtained, the entire corner is his. Unfortunately, the community isn’t so thrilled with his swap idea and they vote it down--big time. Once, in an interview, this developer attributed his success to his patience. He probably has not given up on the idea of owning the school property.
To be continued
The fire station issue is heating up, pardon the pun
Now the Town puts a fly in the Mayor’s ointment: They send a letter to the mayor and aldermen saying, it’s not true we aren’t interested in sharing services! In fact, they give us a free trial offer of sharing fire/EMS service “at no cost” to the city. (Be sure to check pages 3 & 4 of the letter to view the coverage maps.)
The mayor says he would need more specific details about the plan - including staffing roles and a cost analysis - before it was discussed with the Common Council.
Some skeptics might translate that: I need to figure out how I can put a negative spin on their free offer because I really want the fire stations moved! (Why he wants them moved will be covered in a future blog, Whose Master Plan are we following anyway?)
Alderman Lisa and Jerry Mellone sum up the situation beautifully on their website, "For the long term benefit of all taxpayers it is time to accept the town’s offer for a joint committee of elected officials and staff to work towards an agreement."
I could not agree more. Too bad Lisa or Jerry are not on the Human Resource and Public Safety Committee. They are meeting tomorrow (Wed. 7pm) to discuss and possibly act on the Fire/EMS Task Force’s recommendation to move the fire stations. They could approve, amend, or reject the Task Force recommendation. The committee consists of Reddin, Mahkorn, Garvens, Balzer, and Franz.
What do we have to lose by giving this shared service plan a try?
Why Mayor Speaker may end up making the fire station decision
More fire station details
City of Brookfield Fire Station Information
3 Fire sations all in a row. Really? A Want? A need? Or just illogical?
Rule #1 when studying an issue: Don't ask any questions tht you don't want the answers to!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
What is our City thinking? Moving the fire stations is a BIG MISTAKE! (UPDATE)
It is pretty obvious that the City of Brookfield is interested in annexing the Town of Brookfield. Our borders have been steadily expanding to the west over the years, and it was a topic of discussion during the last mayoral campaign. Mayor Speaker even funded a study on the feasibility of annexation.
So if we are gradually moving in the westerly direction, why would we choose to move our east side fire stations in that direction too? What would be the motivation to do that?
If you get out a Brookfield map, you can see that the City of Brookfield is divided into 1 square mile sections—bordered by our major roads. UPDATE: The Town sent this proposal to Mayor Speaker and the aldermen on Saturday. Pages 3 & 4 show the existing locations and proposed. (More on this in a later blog.)
Fire Station 2, on Lilly and Capitol, is situated 1 mile south of our city’s border with Butler/Menomonee Falls and 1 mile west of Wauwatosa. Currently, its farthest boundary to the west is 3 ½ miles—and that last ½ mile is sparsely populated. So we could say the maximum area served is 3 miles to the west plus 1 mile north or south of Capitol. Any location within its territory, in general, would be within 4 miles of travel.
Fire Station 3 is located about ½ mile north of our southern boundary with New Berlin and 2 miles from our densely populated eastern border with West Allis. It is 3 miles from our not so populated western border with the Town of Brookfield. Most of its territory would be within a 4 mile travel distance. Its present location is ideally suited to the “HOT ZONE” of the interstate, hotels, and Brookfield Square.
Fire station 1 at the Safety Building, is located 3 miles from our east/west and north/south boundaries—right in the center of our community. It can serve the northwest area, due west, or even the south. Currently, it is serving the western most area of the city along Gebhardt or North Ave. at a total travel distance of 3 ½ to 4 miles. This 3 ½ to 4 mile distance must be an acceptable travel distance, since this distance will not be improved under the NEW FIRE STATION LOCATION plan.
Now look at proposed locations for Fire Station 2 &amp;amp;amp; 3. Moving them to Capitol & Calhoun and Greenfield & Calhoun will NOT improve the east/west distances. Station 2 will still have a maximum of 4 miles or more travel distance, and station 3 will be moved away from the HOT ZONE and have maximum of nearly 4 miles travel distance.
HOW IS THIS HELPING?
Now if you factor in the possibility of either forming some agreement with the Town of Brookfield for sharing their Town Hall fire house (just 1 ½ miles west of Calhoun Road). OR, jump to the future when the Town is annexed to the City. We will now have all of our fire stations within 2 to 2 ½ miles of each other but still have the maximum travel distances over 4 miles to the east. THIS DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE!!!
When things do not make logical sense, follow the money. Who does it make sense for? Certainly not the taxpayers.
Coming up in my next blog: Whose Master Plan are we following?
The Brookfield News article, “Fire service issue continues to smolder between city, town” posted that residents with questions about this relocation should call Director of Administration Dean Marquardt at 262-796-9650 and Fire Chief John Dahms at 262-782-8932. I would think you could email Marquardt too. I could not find him on the new website, but you might try Marquardt@ci.brookfield.wi.us or put his name in the subject line and email to email@example.com
Contact the Aldermen and City officials with your concerns. The Fire/EMS Task Force Report Public Information Meeting question/comment form reads:
City of Brookfield Fire Station Information
Brookfieldnow blogger Robert Flessas: Non-Elected Officials and Fire Stations:
JSOnline Town offers fire service to city
Fantasy vs. Reality
Links: www.betterbrookfield.com and www.brookfieldnow.com
Friday, January 19, 2007
Good News! The Bennett amendment to Senate bill 1 passed: Free speech is protected
This update came to me from my Home School Legal Defense group:
Last night, the U.S. Senate approved the Bennett amendment by a vote of 55-43. American citizens will remain free to organize and contact their congressional representatives without being forced to comply with federal regulation and oversight.
We have reports from Congress that your outpouring of calls made the difference.
Thank you so much for making the time and sacrifice to call your U.S. Senators asking them to support the Bennett Amendment to Senate Bill 1 (S. 1), the "Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007.
Thank you for standing with us for liberty.
J. Michael Smith
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Protect free speech & grassroots efforts: Call your U.S. Senators today! (UPDATED)
Whether you share the values of these types of groups or not, the principle of restricting free speech is alarming. These groups are only doing what I try to do: alert you about issues affecting your life and then urge you to contact the officials involved in making the decision.
Why? Some members of Congress are tired of getting emails and phone calls! It seems that organizations such as the American Family Association and Focus on the Family are too effective in getting their message out to their concerned members about controversial legislative issues. Unbelievably, the Senate wants to curtail these types of organizations from availing themselves of inexpensive alerting methods such as email or websites.
Instead, the new bill would require grassroots organizations to jump through all sorts of expensive hoops when alerting their members. The new bill also includes civil fines of up to $100,000 for failing to comply with their new restrictions. (The bill defines grassroots lobbying firms as any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the public to contact Congress.)
Senate Bill 1 makes exemptions for larger, organized groups who employ paid lobbyists, who don’t dominantly rely on public communication to get their messages out.
The American Family Association (AFA) reported, “Basically these new rules were written to isolate pro-family (type) organizations. Large corporations (which spend millions in lobbying expenses) would be exempt. Communications aimed at an organization’s “members, employees, officers or shareholders” would be exempt. That means that groups such as the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, National Education Association and other organized groups would be exempt.”
Not every Senator is in agreement with Senate Bill 1. Senator Robert Bennett has introduced an amendment cosponsored by Senator Mitch McConnell to strike section 220 from S. 1.
The amendment (amendment 20) could come up for a vote on the floor of the Senate as early as next Tuesday. Please call your U.S. senators and urge them to support the Bennett amendment (amendment 20) to S. 1.
Your message can be as simple as:
"I am very concerned about the grassroots lobbying provisions in section 220 of Senate Bill 1, the 'Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007.' Please support the Bennett amendment (amendment 20) to remove section 220 from S. 1. Organizations should not have to register with Congress in order to ask citizens to contact their elected officials."
You can reach our U.S. senators by calling their U.S. Capitol offices or Milwaukee offices: Kohl 202-224-5653 or 414-207-4451 and Feingold 202-224-5323 or 414-276-7282. Any senator may be contacted by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. (I called each office and they said they were getting many calls. We need to flood them!)
If you care to read more about this or sign an online petition, you may on the AFA’s action alert page, click here. Focus on the Family - Action also has an info page and online petition, click here. Neither one include the Bennett amendment 20 information, however, so you still need to call our senators.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Fantasy vs. Reality
Now think about the price tags on the proposed 2 high schools renovations (around $110 million for reno and field houses) and 2 fire station remodeling estimates (I think that was around $4-5 million). They are nearly the cost of building entirely new facilities of $125 million and $6 million. How can that be? Is that by coincidence or design?
A few reasons pop into my mind: remodeling costs per square foot are higher than new construction, a BUDGET was never considered to be necessary, and they want you to logically conclude that remodeling is foolish—you need to build new!
If I came to you (that middle of the road average priced homeowner in Brookfield) and said, What don’t you like about your home? What do you want to change? I suspect the price tag on that fantasy remodeling job would be much higher than building a new home with all the features and space your imagination could conjure up.
But, what if I came to you and said, What items absolutely need repairing or improving? You have $25,000 to $50,000 to spend. You then might get serious and say, well, my roof needs replacing, or since we had the twins, we could use an extra bedroom.
You would then work out a remodeling budget and get SEVERAL bids for the project.
Is this how our city or school district does it? According to the 2 Fire Station remodeling project estimates and 2 high school remodeling cost estimates it does not seem so.
We, the taxpayers, must live in the real world. Our government lives in the fantasy world of: the taxpayers are footing the bill so why should we hold back?
Non-Elected Officials and Fire Stations: Part 1
Rule #1 when studying an issue: Don't ask any questions that you don't want the answers to!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The community spoke; 4 on the school board ignored (+ Correction)
One only needs to look at the facility space, or lack of it, to know 4-K will lead us in the direction of more building referendums. If you don’t have the room to start the project now, in an era of lower enrollments, how does the district think this can possibly work when enrollments rise again? (Kindergarten space is not interchangeable with regular classroom space--it is some of the most expensive classroom space in an elementary school. Kindergarten classrooms are larger and have self contained restrooms.)
Cheri Sylla did tell me that the district could always drastically limit the open enrollment students, as Mequon (?) recently did, to control the size of the program and upper grade class sizes. I doubt that will ever happen though, it never has so far. Elmbrook’s policy to date is: once enrolled in the Elmbrook system, always enrolled—until graduation.
Oh, that is right; we can contract with the private sector to house these 4-K students. What a great idea! Why, we never need to build another school ever again! All we need to do is contract with the private sector for needed classroom space. This could be the answer to our facility needs at the high school level too. No need to build those $100 million schools, just rent some of that vacant retail or office space that abounds in Brookfield.
My next blog: Why does remodeling cost the same as building new? I will try not to be sarcastic.
Elmbrook board prepares revamp plans
Thursday, January 04, 2007
UPDATED: Last chance to speak out against 4-K
Please contact each board member, prior to the meeting, and express your concerns about implementing 4-K. I would not recommend email, since I have only heard back from one member regarding my original email questions and concerns. Phone numbers are listed on the board's contact information page. (UPDATE: 2 board members I spoke with said they did get my earlier email, but said they received so many that they were not able to respond.)
I plan on calling and asking them:
How much do we, the Elmbrook taxpayers, pay for each Elmbrook student? The board members in favor of 4-K will tell you we gain state aid for each student, BUT be aware that the amount gained is nowhere near the amount spent!!! (More about that below.)
How are we, the taxpayers, supposed to pay for this AND their proposed high school renovations? The 4-K implementation is to cost the average household $67 additional tax dollars per year; the high school renovations costs are around $315/year. That is nearly a $400 increase! The $67 is an estimate, but you know it will be higher once all the costs are factored in. Don’t forget the coming expenses of $1.7 million for renovations at Fairview South and the new heating plant for $2.5 million at Pilgrim Park Middle School.
Why should we start a 4-K program when we already do not have the facility space to carry it out? Their proposed 4-K program requires partnering with the private sector in order to have enough classroom space. What happens next year when the private sector classroom providers decide they have us at a disadvantage and wish to raise our rent? What happens when we crowd our 4-K space with non-resident students? Our district has a policy that once a student is enrolled, they may attend Elmbrook schools for their entire 14 years of schooling. The 4-K program will adversely impact high school space.
I asked Bob Borch, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations, what the amounts of reimbursement for resident, open enrollment, and 220 students were. This is his response to my question:
“Resident student count is used as part of the formula for determining the amount of equalization aid, along with property value and costs. (The chart he sent stated Elmbrook received, from the state, $1,701 per resident student.) Open enrollment funding is not a state aid, it is a transfer between school districts based on the number of students who go from one district to another. It is coordinated through the state as part of their funding mechanism. The amount per student for open enrollment is set by the state (last year was $5,435) and is a state-wide number. Chapter 220 aid is another different formula and is based on each district's prior year costs and the number of 220 students. It generates about $10,000 per year per student.”
On the surface, you may think the taxpayers benefit from adding resident, non-resident open enrollment*, and 220 students*, BUT when you look at the total cost per student of about $12,300, you see each additional student is an expense to the taxpayers—not a benefit. We Elmbrook taxpayers must make up nearly all of the remaining portion of the per student costs. Therefore, each additional resident student, costs the taxpayers about $10,599. Each open enrollment student costs us $6,865, and each 220 student costs us an additional $2,300. (Figures are approximate.) Of course the 4-K students are part time (so far) and their costs would be adjusted accordingly.
The educational benefits of 4-K just do not warrant the expense and negative impact of 4-K on the Elmbrook School District, facilities and budget. Our district must prioritize its real needs and separate them from their unnecessary wants. To do otherwise is imprudent and a disservice to the taxpayers.
*This figure would pertain to non-resident students that are not filling in the excess space in a classroom. Typically, these students would be in the upper grades. No study has ever been done, to my knowledge, to truly get a grasp of the real cost of adding non-resident students to the district in excess space or otherwise.
Articles and posts: Open Bar,
Elmbrook stews over 4-year-old kindergarten,
Open your mouth now, or prepare to open your wallet forever,
Elmbrook panel urges 4-K plan,
Elmbrook to add 2 sections of 4k ,
Elmbrook to start 4-year old day care. Oops, excuse me, kindergarten