The city of Menomonie approved a property tax increase for 2020.

The City Council approved a tax rate of $7.76 per $1,000 of property valuation during its meeting Monday.

Council member Chad Schlough voted against the tax rate increase. Council member Eric Sutherland was absent.

This is a 2.24 percent increase from the 2019 rate of $7.59.

The rate was the maximum levy to remain in the Expenditure Restraint Program, City Administrator Lowell Prange said. The program includes $126,000 for the city.

“If we’re going to go outside that Expenditure Restraint Program, then we should have just cause,” Mayor Randy Knaack said. “I think we can pull up our bootstraps and stay within means.”

The rate would bring the city up to an estimated contingency amount of $199,700. In the previous two years, the contingency amount was more than $250,000.

The assessed value in 2019 of $996 million decreased by a little more than $7 million because of a assessment settlement with Walmart Stores.

The total proposed tax levy is budgeted for $7.1 million, which is an increase of $351,000 from a year ago.

Mini-storage ordinance amendment denied

An ordinance amendment to change the number of units allowed at a storage facility was denied. It was voted down unanimously.

The ordinance would have allowed up to 200 outdoor units and 400 indoor units on one site.

Pinnacle Acquisitions is planning to create self-storage at the Shops Off Broadway. The company had received approval for 200 units, Prange said, but needed a change to the ordinance to complete its plan of 333 units at the site.

The existing ordinance allows up to 200 units with no designation on indoor or outdoor units.

Brian Kieffer, owner of Secure Storage in Menomonie, said the current ordinance already allows Pinnacle to add 200 climate-controlled units and raising the unit maximum would give Pinnacle a “virtual monopoly” on indoor units, Kieffer said. Even with 200 units, Pinnacle would be the largest facility in the city.

Dennis Close, owner of C & H Storage in Menomonie, said changing the units allowed to 400 creates a disadvantage for the current storage businesses in the city and allows for larger developers to build facilities. Pinnacle can add its 200 to the mall and other local facilities can add indoor climate-controlled units up to 200 total on existing sites, he said.

“I do think the existing ordinance covers all those bases,” Close said.

Al Taft of A.F.T. Real Estate in Eau Claire said the plan for Pinnacle is to fill the same amount of space regardless of the number of units. There is a demand for smaller units, he said, and the people that want to rent the smaller units end up losing if Pinnacle can’t follow through on its plan.

“If somebody wants to rent those, what’s the point of forcing units to a larger size,” Taft said.

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The entrance of the building would remain the same whether there are 200 units or the proposed 333 units. The ordinance is about curb appeal and not about competition, he added.

City reaches agreement to rent third-floor wings

The city voted to approve a lease with West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency to rent the two wings of the third floor not occupied by the city.

The lease agreement would take effect March 1, 2020, contingent on city’s closing of the purchase of the government center building.

The city would be paid about $45,000 per year for rent based on an $8 per square foot base cost. The lease could be a template for other possible tenants, Prange said.

For-profit businesses could see a different rate, Public Works Director Randy Eide said. Three prospective renters toured the building recently, Eide added.

The city has paid about $15 per square foot to rent space from Dunn County, Prange said.

Compensation for alderperson, mayor to increase

The council voted to increase compensation for the position of alderperson and mayor.

In the ordinance approved, alderpersons would be compensated $300 per month. This change takes effect for alderpersons from wards two, four, six, eight and 10 beginning April of 2020 and for wards one, three, five, seven, nine and 11 in April of 2021.

This is an increase from $220.

Mayor Knaack broke a 5-5 tie with a vote to approve the increase. The current compensation has been in place since 2000, he said.

“I really truly believe that this city is doing great and it all rides on this city council, the decision-making factors. For future city council members we want qualified people,” Knaack said.

Council members Ryland Erdman, Jeff Luther, Jan Traxler, Leland Schwebs and Schlough voted against the new ordinance.

“I feel like we should do this on a year where we don’t raise the tax rate.” Erdman said.

The mayor’s position will increase to $1,500 a month beginning in April 2020. The position was compensated $14,400 for the year previously.

“The mayor is the face of the city and for what he is paid this mayor does a very fine job of getting out there and dealing with the public, and I do feel his time is as valuable as ours,” Council member Mary Solberg said.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.

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