Germantown residents unhappy with reconsideration of transportation funding proposal

July 8, 2014

Germantown — Amazement, disappointment and disdain filled the seats of Germantown Village Hall at the July 7 village board meeting. An almost full house of residents turned out for the meeting, the majority of whom were there to speak out against an item of new business on the agenda they argued is old news already.

"Reject means reject," said Judi Kind, who said she was confused about why the board would be reconsidering its June 2 vote to turn down a funding proposal for a portion of Donges Bay Road. "You tell the citizens one thing, and you do something else. The community has been very clear on what they want for Donges Bay Road."

What the residents in attendance wanted is it itself nothing new. Considering residents have been urging for improvements to the road for almost 10 years, the board in June voted to support a plan to resurface Donges Bay Road within its existing footprint rather than overhaul it using funding assistance from the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Surface Transportation Program.

Ultimately, the board on July 7 confirmed its previous convictions against holding out for funding assistance regardless of a slightly higher proposed amount.

Under the June proposal, Germantown would have qualified for $1.83 million of STP assistance for the estimated $4.11 million project, which Village President Dean Wolter at the time called a "slap in the face."

Shortly after the Germantown board rejected the proposal by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's Advisory Committee on Transportation and System Planning and Programming for the Milwaukee Urbanized Area to fund up to 45 percent of the cost to reconstruct the road to federal highway standards, the committee came back with an offer to fund 67 percent of the project costs.

But that is still significantly less than the 80 percent the village was seeking, as residents reminded the board.

"It reminds me of Charlie Brown and the football," said resident John Penkal. "Every year (the funding assistance) gets pulled away, and we fall flat on our face again. We celebrated the death of the monster project that has been terrifying the village for years, and then it feels like someone is trying to do CPR on the monster."

Among others, Penkal referenced a petition spearheaded by resident Holly Basting that featured the support of more than 170 residents to keep the project simple and local.

"At every meeting we have, the board stresses they are a conservative body, and yet here we are talking about building something we don't need with money we don't have," he said. "That is not conservative, and I encourage the village of Germantown to consider this when they vote for a member of the board who votes for something we don't need with money we don't have."

Germantown initially pursued a split in funding that would have had the village paying just 20 percent under a different set of selection criteria, which were modified last year by the advisory committee responsible for the administration of state STP funds.

The changes made to the procedures and criteria the committee uses to evaluate and ultimately select what projects receive funding led the committee to deny funding in October, which prompted village officials to formally object to the decision.

Instead the board voted in June, and again on July 7, to pursue the project, which will fix the heavily deteriorated road from Division Road to Fond du Lac Avenue, with its own funds.

"There wasn't anyone more surprised than I was that another option came clear," said Wolter. "Who asked to put (this item) on the agenda tonight? I did ... when they are making a proposal like this to Germantown, I feel the full body (of the board) should make a response."

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