City of Tomahawk to host public hearing on transportation utility ordinance next week
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The City of Tomahawk will host a public hearing regarding a proposed transportation utility ordinance at SARA Park, 900 W. Somo Ave., Tomahawk, on Tuesday, June 7 at 5:30 p.m.
The hearing will give the public the opportunity to learn about the ordinance and voice their opinions on it.
In April, the City of Tomahawk Common Council introduced the ordinance, which would implement a transportation utility in the city. The ordinance had been reviewed by the city’s Finance Committee in March before being forwarded to the council.
On its current timeline, the ordinance would take effect on July 1, if approved by the council.
The city has been considering implementing a transportation utility as a means of generating infrastructure revenue for nearly a year.
According to Ruekert & Mielke, Inc., a firm that assists municipalities with infrastructure needs and has been working with the city on the matter, a transportation utility functions similarly to water or sewer utilities, with the funds generated being allocated to a specific use. Revenue generated through a transportation utility would be earmarked for transportation-related needs, including pavement preservation work, street construction and reconstruction, street lighting, traffic control signalization and repair of operational equipment.
Administration-related costs, such as billing and collection, would also be covered by the utility.
Ruekert & Mielke said the City of Tomahawk would seek to generate $500,000.00 annually from a transportation utility fee, which would be billed out quarterly, similar to water and sewer utilities.
Each customer would pay the same “base fee,” which would be used to pay the cost of running the utility. A separate, larger “usage fee” would be administered based on the estimated number trips generated from a property. Ruekert & Mielke noted that, for example, a fast food restaurant or gas station, due to generating a higher number of trips, would pay a larger usage fee than a bar or church, which generate fewer trips.
Estimates from the firm show that the monthly charge for a single-family residence would be about $5.50, with the base fee roughly $0.30, and the usage fee estimated to be $5.20. A single-family residence would pay about $66 per year.
The potential passage of the transportation utility ordinance comes after efforts at both the local and state levels to implement a Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT) have been unsuccessful.
City of Tomahawk voters showed considerable support for a PRAT in a 2018 advisory referendum, with 69% voting in favor.
In 2019, then-35th Assembly District Representative and current 12th Senate District seat holder Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) and several other lawmakers introduced legislation that would have authorized the City of Tomahawk, the Town of Minocqua and the City of Sturgeon Bay to become premier resort areas, ultimately allowing the municipalities to put a 0.5% PRAT in place. The bill died in committee after leadership chose not to move it forward.
“We have a whole segment (of legislators) that hate PRATs,” Felzkowski said after the bill stalled.
Legislation introduced concurrently by then-State Senator and current U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) also died in committee.