La Crosse mayor looks ahead to 2017

On Tuesday, News 8 sat down with La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat to look back on 2016. He also shared what’s in store for 2017.

“One of the areas we really want to focus on is our work with the county health department in trying to implement the community health improvement plan they’ve developed,” Kabat said.

The plan is aimed at improving mental health, reducing substance abuse and bettering social environments in the community.

Kabat said another big goal for the year is improving neighborhoods.

“So, finding ways that our community police officers and fire department and code enforcement can get into those neighborhoods and get into those areas that are still struggling, to help really improve what’s going on there,” he said. “The housing investments we’re making, we’re not only going to see the Bakalars Building online but the Roosevelt School will hopefully be finished up in 2017.”

The former Roosevelt School will provide affordable housing, and the Bakalars Building will have six units set aside for those who are homeless transitioning to permanent housing.

Kabat also plans to address the national heroin epidemic that has also hit La Crosse.

“The substance abuse goes to issues of treatment and trying to do what we can to support people who are seeking treatment and who do want to deal with their addictions,” he said.

Kabat said another issue that comes along with heroin is an abundance of discarded needles.

“I think the needle exchange is a positive program,” he said. “We have to, however, figure out why we have so many more discarded needles here in La Crosse than in other parts of the state, and partner with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and the county health department and others to provide places where people can safely dispose of those needles so they aren’t a public health threat in parks or public spaces. That is going to be a big issue for us to tackle next year.”

A local election for the city’s Common Council and mayor’s office is also slated for 2017.

“My plan, of course, is to run a strong campaign,” Kabat said.

More items on the agenda for 2017 are addressing an old fire station, planning for a big La Crosse Center renovation, coming to a decision on Memorial Pool, moving forward on road projects on Highway 53 and South Avenue, City Hall improvements and continuing to fight the emerald ash borer in ash trees.

“If we can achieve a good chunk of those goals for next year, we’ll be having another great year,” Kabat said.