La Crosse tackles major projects in proposed 2015 Capital Improvement Budget

$2 million will go toward new emergency management radio system

The city of La Crosse is proposing a $9.4 million bond to tackle major projects within the city.      

About $2 million of the proposed budget for next year will go toward a new radio system for emergency services. The total cost of the new system is more than $8.5 million, but a lot of that money was borrowed last year.

It’s almost a third of the 2015 capital improvement project budget, but the chief of the fire department said the update is desperately needed in the city.

“We depend upon our radio system, hand held and in the vehicles. Those are a critical life link for us and when we don’t have those things working properly it really is a serious situation for us,” said Chief Gregg Cleveland, with the La Crosse Fire Department.

After putting money toward a new radio system, the city of La Crosse has about $7 million to put toward other major projects. There are two other big projects the city will be putting another third of its 2015 Capital Improvement Budget toward. One city council member said projects like the La Crosse Regional Airport and city street improvements are needed to keep up with the demand.

La Crosse City Council member Bob Seaquist has been on the board of public works for about four years.

“I would like to be fixing streets more quickly, but that isn’t going to happen,” said Seaquist.

Seaquist said many streets in La Crosse are well over due for repair.

“The civil engineers say that a black top street has a lifespan of about 30 years and a concrete street about 50 years,” said Seaquist. “We are on a 100-year replacement cycle, so we don’t have the money to keep them up as fast as they wear out.”

To help close that gap, the city of La Crosse is proposing about $1.8 million of its bonded money for 2015 to go towards road repair.

“We have a lot of needs when it comes to just keeping up with the maintenance and repaving on certain areas,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

Some of the major projects include repairs on Main Street from 7th Street to 11th Street. The city plans on putting $145,000 towards that next year. The city will also put about $250,000 toward signals at Losey Blvd and Green Bay Street.

“Those signals are over 50 years old. With the ability of redoing those signals and then the technology and fiber optics, we will be linking up the timing of those signals,” said Kabat.

Here is quick break down of the money for 2015:

                Emergency management radio system: $2 illion

                Airport: $1.9 million

                Street repair: $1.8 million

                Capital new equipment: $1.1 million

That totals to about $6.8 million of the original $9.4 million borrowed, which leaves more than $2.5 million for other areas such as housing, sewer, and parks and rec.

“There is always a much greater need than what we have for resources so it’s really prioritizing,” said Kabat.

The money may disappear fast, but Seaquist said the city is good at being frugal.

“That is doing a lot with the amount of money that it has,” said Seaquist.

Although the city is borrowing about $9.4 million, the $1.9 million going toward the airport will actually be paid back to the city. In essence, the city is only borrowing about $7.5 million which is similar to previous years. 

The total capital improvement program budget is a little more than $34 million and that includes city, state, and federal dollars along with grant funds.