Some say you can’t fight City Hall, but you should never have to because we all work for you. Today it is easy to be cynical and critical of government but elected officials are your neighbors who are working together with the private sector to make Neenah a better place for all of us. The leadership to achieve that vision does not come from City Hall alone, but from all citizens who dare to care about our future. Questioning and constructive criticism are a healthy and necessary part of citizen involvement so I am initiating this effort to provide answers to the concerns and questions I have been receiving. If you have a question or concern, please contact me at 886-6104, e-mail me at email@example.com or stop in my office for a visit.
* Indicates new issue since last revision (for background, some prior answers continue to be listed).
REVISED December 5, 2013
* December 5: Upcoming Changes
- Sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall
- No parking on City Streets from 2 am - 5 am
- Drop off site at Tullar garage is closed for drop offs of large items during January and February.
* December 5: What can taxpayers expect from the 2014 budget?
The assessed tax rate after TIF went down by .48%. When all taxing entities are considered, the net tax rate will decrease by 2.02%
* December 5: Q What is happening to the sewer user fee and recycling fee this year?
First, the recycling fee will remain unchanged and will include curbside pick up as well as the drop off center at the Tullar garage. The sewer fee will increase by $2.50 per month for the average household, ranking Neenah 46th out of 51 communities surveyed. The increase is the result of the Sewage Commission need to refurbish the plant at a cost in excess of $20 million and the Cities of Neenah and Menasha have to pay the vast majority of this cost.
October 15: What accolade did CNN magazine pay the City of Neenah?
Neenah was ranked 24th in the nation as the best place to live based on housing costs.
October 15: How does Neenah’s bond rating compare to other communities?
Neenah ranks in the top 25% of all ratings nationwide.
October 15: Has Neenah continued to find ways to cooperate with its’ neighbors?
This is one way we can continue to do more with less. After the successful fire department consolidation, we consolidated our health department with Oshkosh and the County. Recently, the Police Department signed a mutual aid agreement with 7 surrounding communities and the fire department signed an automatic aid agreement with Appleton. We play an active leadership role in the Fox Cities Economic Development Partnership and partner with Future Neenah that brings activities like Streetball, the Farmers’ Market, Concerts and BooFest to the community.
October 15: When does the odd-even parking end and no overnight parking begin?
July 22: What is the purpose of the 2-1-1 number?
This is a dedicated phone line by United Way that allows a citizen to dial in to find out what services are available for help like counseling, lodging, food, health etc.
July 22: What does United Way do for the City of Neenah?
There are over 100 programs served by United Way and 22% of all contacts are Neenah citizens, so your help is really needed. This year if you contribute $26 more than last year or you make a donation of $1 a week, your name will go into a drawing for a new car donated by Bergstrom Auto. None of us are really well off until all of us are better off, so won’t you join me in making a contribution to United Way?
July 22: When is the Mayor’s Charity Golf Outing?
August 19th at Bridgewood. We still need hole and tee sponsors and foursomes to help the N-M Rescue Dive Team and the Animal Shelter. Call 886-6200 for more information.
July 22: How can I help the police with the problem of crime increases?
You can text crime tips anonymously to 274637(CRIMES). Use keyword IGOTYA. You can report traffic violations through the Police Department's webpage. Also, you can Friend the department on NPD’s Facebook page and get alerts.
May 23: What is going into the old Big Lots store?
May 23: Where is the new St. Vincent de Paul store located?
On S. Commercial, behind Tom’s drive in (west side of the street).
May 23: When does the drop off center at the Tullar Rd. garage re-open?
It is open now during the week and in May will be open from 8:30-11:30 am manned by your elected officials.
May 23: What are the restrictions on what can be brought to the Tullar garage?
No grass, electronics, TV’s, computer equipment, DVD’s, VCR’s etc. refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, microwaves, propane tanks, tires, oil filters.
May 23: How do I get rid of e-waste, compact fluorescents and large items?
The City will hold two e-waste collection days at the Tullar Road garage, one on May 3, the other will be on October 26. A fee will be charged for most items. City of Neenah residents only. You can also call 920-955-3760 to get more information. Compact fluorescents can be dropped off at Krueger’s or Brazee’s. The City offers collection of large items and non appliance metal on the even months. Call 886-6251 to leave a message for pick up.
May 23: How can we dispose of old medications?
There is a drop off box at the Police Station. Cross out your name, but not the name of the medication. Keep medications in original container.
April 1: How do I receive emergency notifications?
Want to be quickly notified of an emergency or disaster near your home or work? Winnebago County has developed an emergency telephone notification system that will call and notify you of evacuations, weather emergencies, and other serious incidents. This is a free service; all landline phones in Winnebago County are already registered. The Neenah Police Department recommends you also register your cell phone by signing up your number on the county’s website. Just go to www.co.winnebago.wi.us and click on “Emergency Management.” Only emergency and disaster-related calls will be placed.
December 6: Large Item and Metal Pick Up procedure to change
- Beginning Feb. 1 to have the above picked up you must call 886-6251 a dedicated line and provide your name, address, telephone number and the item to pick up.
- Crews will no longer just cruise the neighborhood searching out items like mattresses, furniture, carpeting etc.
- There will be no drop off at the Tullar Rd. site in January and February but it will resume in March
- If you have questions call 886-6240
December 6: What was the voter turn out for Neenah in the Presidential election?
80%, way to go Neenah voters.
December 6: Why do taxes keep going up?
This year, when considering all taxing entities the increase on a $150,000 home was less than $12 or .3%. There isn’t much else that has only increased by 1/3 of 1% so everyone is doing whatever possible to control spending.
December 6: What is the major cause of accidents?
SPEED, SO SLOW DOWN AND GIVE EVERYONE A BRAKE. 15 MPH is the recommended speed for all roundabouts.
December 6: What are the tax collection hours?
Monday-Thursday 7:30am to 4:30pm and Friday until 4:00pm. For your convenience we have a drop off box and a drop box inside the Finance Office. You can also make payments at Associated Bank, BMO Harris Bank, Wells Fargo and First National Bank Fox Valley.
December 6: What do we need to do to get the lottery credit?
If you got it last year your current bill should show the credit. The deadline to claim the 2012 credit is January 31st, 2013.
December 6: Why did the City refinance over $4 million in debt?
The simple answer is we took advantage of the 1.77% interest rate without extending the time period to pay off the debt, thus saving over $400,000.
December 6: When are dog and cat licenses due?
April 1, 2014 with a valid rabies vaccination certificate. Cost for a neutered dog is $6.00 un-neutered is $11.00
- STOP SIGNS MEAN A COMPLETE STOP
- WATCH YOUR SPEED FOR EVERYONE’S SAFETY
- CUT YOUR LIMBS THAT EXTEND OVER SIDEWALKS
- Pick up after your dog when you are walking on sidewalks, trails or on trails in parks
- Dogs in parks must be on a leash
- You cannot park so that vehicle blocks the sidewalk or ON LAWNS
- FOLLOW RECYCLING GUIDELINES - SEE THE BROCHURE
- You can properly dispose of tattered American flags at City Hall.
- Recyclables must be in a container but you can use your blue bags for garbage.
- Wear reflective clothing when walking or running in dark hours.
- Speed in roundabouts should not exceed 15 mph.
September 24: Why is the City spending more money building parks along Little Lake Buttes des Morts?
First, the lake is a great community asset that we have not had access to before. These park facilities will be built with DNR grants and a $600,000 donation from Alice Jean Smith. The parks will have a shelter, trails, kayak and canoe launching facilities and give all of us easy access to the beautiful lake.
August 2: Why did the City spend money to build an eagle on the roundabout?
First, the entire cost was born by a private donor. The eagle is a spectacular entrance point to our community and is yet another sign of the generosity of many Neenah citizens as they seek to make us an even better community.
August 2: What is Plexus planning in the City’s Industrial Park?
Plexus has already started construction of a 410,000 facility
August 2: What do we do to drive a multi-lane roundabout safely?
The rules for using multi-lane roundabouts safely are basically the same as the rules for single lane roundabouts with a couple of additions.
- Choose the correct lane as you approach the roundabout, following the signs and pavement markings.
- Slow down.
- Yield to all lanes of traffic within the roundabout.
- Once in the roundabout, do not switch lanes.
- Do not pass trucks within the roundabout. Large trucks often need to straddle lanes as they maneuver through a multi-lane roundabout.
- Look out for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Roundabouts are safer, less costly, reduce emissions, and save time; but they do require public education and we will make that our highest priority.
May 7: When are City Council meetings televised?
If you turn to Cable Channel 2, on the first and third Thursdays at 6 pm, you will get a replay of that Wednesday’s council meeting. If you can’t make the meetings, this is a good way to stay informed.
May 7: What will be the result of the latest new projects in downtown Neenah?
The Plexus Corporation is committed to building a data/conference center in front of their current building with an estimated value of $7 million. That will yield $175,000 a year in revenue to the City or a total in excess of $3.3 million. Next to that project as you move to the west is the Gateway Plaza built with a combination of some city investment and major private donor contributions. Next to that, Affinity built a new clinic valued at $6.7 million. Neenah continues, despite hard economic times, to attract new development, increase the tax base and bring new jobs to the community.
May 7: What is the status of the effort to raise money for a K-9 Unit and Dive Team for water rescue?
As of today, $94,000 was raised for the K-9 Unit and the dog has arrived helping us in the battle against drugs. His name is Cedric and he is on duty now.. The Fire Dept. has met their goal of $90,000 to help with ice/water rescues. If you would like to make a donation call 886-6200. How blessed we are to live in a community with so many generous people. Thanks to both the police and fire departments for their efforts in raising this money.
December 8: Why is the City building so much new development in the downtown?
Plexus and Affinity bring $20 million in new value and 420 employees into the downtown. They could have built their facilities anywhere, including outside of Wisconsin so it was to our advantage to keep them in Neenah. While many communities have little or no development going on, we have two townhouse projects (on Breezewood and Western Avenues) and CVS Pharmacy and Kwik Trip opened their doors this summer. Now Festival Foods is at Shopko Plaza. So my point is we are not focusing on just the downtown.
December 8: Why did the City invest so much in the public plaza between the new Affinity clinic and Plexus?
A plaza was part of our agreement to get Plexus to move to that site but the vast majority of the cost was paid for by private donors.
October 26: What did Neenah do about posting no concealed weapons in public places?
While I supported the action the Council voted to table on an 8-1 vote so as of now there will be no restrictions on where a citizen can carry a concealed weapon other than provided by the law(schools, courts).
October 26: What is the justification for the recycling fee?
The State reduced municipal grants last year requiring the use of reserves and cut the grant further this year requiring $350,000 on the tax levy. Neenah’s levy limit was .44% plus the potential of using .5% of previously unused levy so fiscally something had to change. Furthermore, I believe it is more transparent to list exactly what the cost of recycling is for each property rather than bury it in the total tax. Remember, recycling includes not just the pick up on the curb of plastics etc. but brush-pick up, leaves, and the city garage drop off site. It is also more equitable in that the more your home is valued does not increase the service received or the amount of recyclables placed at the curb.
June 17: What is the City doing along Little Lake Butte Des Morts?
Thanks to a generous gift of $600,000 by Alice Jean Smith, Neenah built a beautiful park off of N. Lake. Now we are doing the engineering and planning to complete the Arrowhead Park along the Lake and will start construction in the spring.
December 8: What efforts are being made to reduce City costs?
While there is a long list of such efforts the most recent focus on two areas. First, a study of the potential to consolidate the health department with the County and or the City of Menasha. The second, and most significant is the development of a 2nd tier of both salary and benefits for new employees. New employees will have reduced vacation benefits and sick leave payout and will contribute 50% of the employee share toward the Wisconsin Retirement System(this will be true of all city employees except police and fire if the governor’s budget repair bill goes into effect). Non-represented employees in salary grades 4, 5, & 6 will be hired at a salary below the current salary plan for existing employees. A cap on the city’s contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System for all employees has also been proposed as well as a 10% contribution toward dental insurance. Full implementation of the proposals will depend on the ability to negotiate successfully with the unions which has been accomplished. The above actions will put Neenah on the cutting edge of state-wide leadership in the effort to reduce the cost of government.
June 14: What is the job of the complaint officer and what is the procedure for gaining compliance?
Our complaint officer is a part time employee whose primary purpose is to help educate the public about city ordinances dealing with a wide range of subjects, including rummage sale signs, brush on the curb, garbage and large items on the curb, weed control, junk on property, branches overhanging the sidewalk etc. Often responding to neighborhood complaints, he first places a notice on the property as to the violation and the need to correct. Our goal is not to fine but to gain compliance so we can make our neighborhoods places we can all be proud of. If compliance is not voluntary, the next step is enforcement, which often means a City crew brings the property into compliance and bills the owner. This is a step we want to avoid whenever possible. The best enforcement is for each of us to be a good neighbor and take good care of our property, following the rules. If you get a tag, please do not take offense, but simply correct the problem. Your cooperation will be appreciated.
February 24: Why do City projects go over budget, especially the Plexus/Glatfelter project?
First, the City has a long record of completing projects under budget. While budgets are estimates and unforeseen factors can often influence the final expenditures, the process we have in place and the oversight of staff and the due diligence of the Council usually complete the project at or below the estimate. Here are just a few examples: Water plant, $2.1 million under budget, Alta Resources, $2.4 million under, Lake Street utilities, $220,000 under and recently the water main construction on Breezewood came in $128,000 under budget. Such results are typical but when costs exceed the budget, the buck stops here and it is my job to find out why it happened and look for ways to improve the process and the oversight. PLEASE SEE THE WINTER NEWSLETTER SUMMARY OF MAJOR PROJECTS.
For example, the Plexus/Glatfelter project was the most complicated the City has ever undertaken. Considering our options for the site, we could either concede the relocation of a major company with 400 employees to a location outside Neenah or to raze the mill and remediate the site, preparing it for a $20 million global headquarters at the gateway to the downtown. You can judge the results for yourself. In addition to Plexus there are 5 additional sites to develop with the potential to greatly expand our tax base. The tax increment created will pay back our costs over time. No one was happy with the increased expenditures brought on by unforeseen additional remediation, professional assistance needed to meet complex environmental regulations and to assist in meeting grant requirements resulted in a cleaned site and brought the project over $1.1 million in grants with another $500,000 pending. Meeting the Plexus fast track schedule to insure they would stay in Neenah was another factor that increased costs. This was a completely transparent project, as the Community Development Authority held open meetings with minutes available to anyone interested. Nevertheless we will review the entire process and look for ways to further increase oversight and monitoring of every project.
August 26: Did Neenah benefit from the federal stimulus/recovery funding?
Thanks to the perseverance and due diligence of Neenah department heads, the City has received significant federal assistance through the stimulus program. The benefits received include:
- A 20 hr per week employee at the library for one year
- $512,000 for the Adams Street Bridge
- $500,000 for the reconstruction of W. Wisconsin Avenue
- $1.2 million for the Commerce Court storm detention pond(50% will be a Clean Water Loan and 50% a stimulus grant
- $31,000 for the Police Department
- The CDA has submitted an application for $300,000 for the Glatfelter/Plexus project
- The Fire Department has applied for several grants
Our Park and Recreation Dept. also received $107,000 Wisconsin Waterways grant for the Rec Park boat landing and the PD received $20,000 drunk driving enforcement grant. While all of this is our money, we have a responsibility to take the burden off our taxpayers and get a fair share of the funds being distributed. The key was to focus on established needs and not try to create projects just to get federal dollars.
August 26: What should I do if I see a street light on during the day?
If you see a street light that is on during daylight hours or blinking or completely off at night, call WE Energies at 1-800-714-7777, report on-line at www.we-energies.com/night_aura or call the Neenah Public Works Department at 886-6240.
August 26: How do we know what to recycle?
Top 5 Recycling Questions
Which plastics are recyclable?
You can identify recyclable plastic by the numbering system on the container. Only plastics with a #1 or #2 with a narrow neck are recyclable (NECK SMALLER THAN THE BASE).
Why only #2 narrow neck bottles?
#2 plastics are made of high-density polyethylene which can be "blow molded" to form bottles or "injection-molded" to form tubs. The two applications are chemically different and have different "melting points."
Do I need to rinse the containers before recycling them?
Yes. Rinsing containers helps with the sorting of recyclables.
Do I need to take the labels off jars and cans?
No. There is no need to waste water and energy struggling with labels. The labels are burned off during the recycling process.
Should caps be removed before recycling?
August 21: Why does the city build new buildings when there are so many vacant buildings in the City?
First, this is a decision made by the private sector not the City. Often the old building is in need of so much remediation that it is no longer cost effective to redevelop. At other times it no longer meets the needs of the business because of size or physical lay out. Clearly, once a business decides it needs a new location, our goal is to make certain the new location is in Neenah and not elsewhere. But let’s also remember the large number of buildings that have been redeveloped providing enhanced tax base, new jobs and new shopping opportunities. The Jersild Building, Family Video, Papa John’s, Mighty Auto, Choices Restaurant, Directions Inc. and Dollar General are just a few examples of vacant buildings that have been renovated for new uses. Many other locations have been razed to make room for a new Neenah business such as the Taco Bell on Green Bay Road, many locations on S. Commercial St. and a new medical facility on N. Commercial. The best example of this will be the replacing of the Glatfelter Mill with an $18 million Plexus National headquarters. Attracting new development and backfilling vacant buildings is a major challenge of every community, one Neenah has met with great success.
November 1: What has Neenah already done to move toward a sustainable community?
The following represents those actions Neenah has already completed or is exploring relative to becoming an eco municipality.
- A highly successful recycling program
- Use of recycled oil to heat the City garage
- Replacing of lights with compact fluorescents
- Leadership in construction of roundabouts
- Support for enabling legislation to authorize a Regional Transportation Authority
- An expanding trail system
- Support for green development in the Church Condominium project
- Adoption of the 20/20 Comprehensive Plan
- Tree City USA designation
- Mayor Scherck directed staff to explore solar energy options(completed at City garage)
- Exploring the purchase of a nitrogen compressor that improves fuel mileage and extends tire life.
How are city expenditures determined?
A recent “It’s Your Call” a Town of Menasha resident, inquired if money would be spent “foolishly” in Neenah. This is the process followed in making decisions on capital expenditures.
- Department heads propose projects to be included in a Five Year Capital Improvement Plan
- As Mayor, I carefully review those proposals, deleting or deferring some projects.
*This year for example, I deleted over $700,000 in capital projects.
- The Council then reviews the proposed plan, holds a public hearing and approves the Five Year Plan.
- Annually, projects are then proposed by the department head for review by the Mayor for inclusion in the Executive Annual Capital Budget.
- Many of hours of workshops are held by the City Council to review the executive proposal.
- After a public hearing, amendments are proposed and the annual Capital Budget is adopted by the Council.
- Each specific project is then the subject of yet another public hearing prior to the project moving forward.
- On many projects, pre-construction information sessions are held to allow citizens to ask questions and learn specific details relative to timetable, assessments etc.
I respect the fact that if we personally disagree with the purpose of an expenditure, we may regard it as “foolish”. If I don’t own a boat, money to improve the boat ramps could be perceived as foolish, or if I don’t play tennis, I may question why the City is spending money on tennis courts. My goal as your Mayor is to spend your money as if it were my own, after full consideration, based on established priorities. Citizen input is always the top priority, which is why I have held a “town meeting” each of the last two years, prior to making my budget recommendations. If you have topics you would like to discuss or projects you are concerned about, don’t hesitate to call me at 886-6104, e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop in my office for a visit.
Why are some traffic signals not better coordinated or timed?
Signal coordination is a constant objective but it is also complicated, not a one size fits all solution. If you have concerns about a specific situation, please call the Mayor’s office at 886-6104 so we can check it out.
Why did the city create a community development authority?
Cities have 3 primary tools to assist in spurring development and redevelopment projects designed to increase the tax base, retain existing jobs and create new jobs. We have successfully utilized Tax Incremental Financing and Industrial Revenue Bonds for that purpose. The third tool is the creation of a Community Development Authority (CDA). Some have criticized this as a “gimmick to shift and hide Neenah’s spending”. To the contrary, all proposals and projects of the CDA must be approved by a 2/3 vote of the Common Council on a project-by-project basis. The City’s Director of Community Development is the Executive Director of the CDA and he reports directly to the Mayor and the City Council. The membership of the CDA includes citizens’ members with expertise in finance, real estate, construction, development, the law and two alderpersons as elected representatives of all citizens. The purpose is not to spend more but rather to provide more thorough oversight and accountability over development projects that have been previously approved by the Council. The CDA provides flexibility, helps simplify the process of creating public/private partnerships and improves the City’s ability to attract capital because the bonds issued by a CDA are double tax-exempt. The debt incurred by the CDA does not count against the City’s 5% legal borrowing capacity. This in turn allows the City to carry out previously approved projects without jeopardizing its’ bond rating. That means lower interest costs to the City. Because City officials have a wide range of responsibilities, a CDA allows for a more focused collaborative effort in completing successful, tax-producing projects. Since a CDA is one of the tools available to a municipality, why would a City not want this tool in it’s’ toolbox? The purpose of every action Neenah takes is to control taxes, improve our quality of life by doing what is best for this community and our future. The CDA is another step in that direction. A recent editorial said, “Authorizing a CDA is a leap of faith”. The simplest thing in government is to do nothing, uphold the status quo and hope good things will happen. The leap of faith we need is in elected officials with vision and the courage to propose responsible change. The leap of faith we need is in our citizens’ ability to remove elected officials who disregard the public interest and act irresponsibly.
How would the CDA work on a specific project?
When the City has an opportunity to participate in a high value, job producing or job retention project, like the Alta Resources office center, it would need to devise a Tax Increment Financing and project feasibility plan.
- With a CDA in place, the Council could direct the CDA to prepare a redevelopment plan for the project to explore all options for the public’s role, to maximize the impacts from the development.
- The Council would have to approve the CDA’s plan by a 2/3-majority vote before the project could be implemented. The Council would also have to approve a capital budget for the project to bring the resources of the Tax Increment Financing district to the development.
- In the Alta Resources project, the CDA would design, finance and build the structure through the issuance of mortgage revenue bonds.
- By agreement, the CDA would lease the parking structure to the City. The City’s lease payment would be made from the tax increment payments collected on the new high value development.
- After the parking structure debt is fully paid, ownership of the parking structure would be transferred from the CDA to the City.
- Long-term maintenance and operating expenses of the parking structure would be fully covered by parking leases and monthly parking permits.
- In addition to parking revenues, the City would continue to receive the property taxes from this new private development forever.
How exactly does Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) work?
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. A large open property is assessed at $100,000. The City invests $1 million in roads, sewers and development assistance so a commercial development can be built with an assessed value of $10 million. All of the property taxes paid on that $10 million new increment go to pay off the City’s $1 million investment. After the City collects sufficient tax revenues to pay off all the borrowing costs, the taxes generated will be shared with the school district, county and technical college forever, holding down future taxes. In addition, the City helps to create new jobs, new shopping opportunities and brings new homeowners into the community.