Thursday, April 30, 2009

Public Sector Assumes More Costs At Pabst Farms

Ye who swear that development adds tax base per se, read further.

This time, the public sector, in the form of the City of Oconomowoc, is going to absorb the cost of building a fire station in the Pabst Farms development that had been assigned to the developer.

Oconomowoc already has invested millions of tax incremental financing dollars into streets, lights, sewer and water on to former ag land in the project, but housing starts and subdivisions have been suspended at Pabst Farms, and the long-touted upscale shopping mall there has been twice-postponed, is still without any tenants and construction, and may end up being a collection of big box stores.

Yet the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation has already spent nearly $9 million acquiring land and preparing it to build an interstate interchange to serve the non-existent mall, having rushed the project forward on construction schedules even though it knew the mall was dead in the water.

This borders on scandal and insanity, yet WisDOT forges ahead with a $25 million Interchange to Nowhere project to which it will pay $22 million.

Like the state, I guess the city and its taxpayers have money to burn - - Oconomowoc has also pledged $400,000 in local dollars to the interchange, and Waukesha County - - apparently something of a developers' Welfare Haven - - is on the hook for a generous $1.75 million contribution, too.

The city's excuse is that the new Aurora Hospital on the south side of the project off I-94 is getting ready to open.


If Aurora thinks it needs a fire station closer than what is nearer the traditional city center on the other side of the interstate, let it pick up the tab.

Or go after the developer and make it pay for the fire station. Or let the developer and the hospital split the costs.

Not the taxpayers: they may loose their shirts on the initial public investment, and the people that bought into the community shoudl really be angry that now they have yet more bills to pay.

The fire station was part of the deal that allowed the hospital to be built - - a decision held up for years because its need in Western Waukesha County was dubious.

Now the area has an extra hospital, and added costs in a planned community where the housing and retail components are moribund.

Planning and building on 1,500 acres of farmland that drains to the underground water table has all sorts of hidden social and public expenses, but this latest waste of dollars and common sense is right out in the open.

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