2016 Milwaukee County Adopted
Capital Improvement Budget Project WV022
The County’s 2016 appropriation for the Franklin Landfill Infrastructure adds another $1.151 million to public spending of landfill infrastructure bringing the total east side perimeter replacement spending to date of approximately $1.812 million. But clearly this public spending includes, “upgrades to the landfill gas system assuming the development of adjacent land”. The cost for 2016, “assumes the private development of what is known as the Department of Transportation land southeast of Crystal Ridge Drive”. The budget write-up also anticipates future public spending but makes no attempt to estimate these costs. There is no question that County taxpayers are paying to allow the Ballpark Commons development to occur. This information is contrary to assertions by a City of Franklin Alderwoman and a City plan commissioner of “no public spending” while they each advocated for the proposal. These individuals certainly have knowledge of this public spending or would have such knowledge with little effort; and their assertions to the contrary are troubling and simply wrong.
Private Activity Concerns
The cost to taxpayers for Ballpark Commons and the Rock is not limited to landfill infrastructure and transportation. Taxpayers have also paid a price for the location of this for-profit business on public lands because certain expenses incurred by the public for landfill infrastructure are not eligible for tax exempt financing. Milwaukee County has been required to defease (escrow and refund) $213,000 in tax exempt bonds. Verification of this public cost is discussed in an email with the County’s Comptroller.
Future Private Activity Concerns
with Ballpark Commons
Here are other email chains and County memorandums indicating that the County anticipates future private activity conflicts with the development of Ballpark Commons. These potential taxpayer costs have yet to be addressed; and are not discussed in the developer submittal. Again, if the bond defeasance of 2012 is any guide, these costs will again simply be passed on to taxpayers.
Landfill Pre-design Report for Ballpark Commons
This special study was completed by a Milwaukee County consultant in 2014. It shows the scope of operational problems encountered by the waste gas system due to differential soil settlement and other issues; and discusses the cost to remedy the conflicts between the waste gas system and Ballpark Commons. These costs have certainly increased since the 2014 study was completed; but at that time the costs were estimated in Table 1, LFG System Improvement, $132,000, and Table 2B LFG System Long-Term Improvement Required Due to the Rock Development, $1,273,000. The violations of Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter NR 504.08(2)(j) are now being corrected but the report notes “Based on past history and experience, the settlement and plugging of headers is expected to reoccur…” This differential settling has serious consequences for the cost and potential liability of any development on the publicly owned landfill. In short, no private lender would make a loan under these facts; but all indications are that the City is well on its way to approving a TID encompassing $26.8 million in public spending.
MOU between Village of Greendale and Milwaukee County
The Memorandum of Understanding between the Village of Greendale and Milwaukee County demonstrates both the poor site selection for the development and the manner in which public business is being conducted in private and without the discipline of public bidding. In essence, Milwaukee County agreed to new spending for site improvements; but then in an attempt to circumvent both public scrutiny of spending authorizations and public bidding requirements simply entered into a letter agreement with the Rock to forgo $100,000 of future revenues in return for the Rock making the improvements. Several problems exist with this approach. First, these revenues belonged to the taxpayers of Milwaukee County and shouldn’t be traded away without County Board action. Second, we know of no legal authority for the Parks Department to circumvent public bidding requirements prescribed in Wisconsin Statues. The existence of this MOU raises serious concerns about how this public-private partnership is being managed. It is clear from emails with government officials that financial managers outside the Parks Department had no knowledge of this agreement. It was only through FOIA requests concerning missing revenues that this information was discovered.
Rawson Avenue Reconstruction
The public cost to reconstruct West Rawson Avenue has not been discussed by the developer or by City officials; but according to emails with traffic engineers, Milwaukee County is now anticipating that a project will be added to the 2017 Capital Improvement Budget for the stretch of Rawson from Crystal Ridge Drive to Forest Home Avenue. It is important to note that nothing was previously shown in the County’s five year plan for this work. Based on other recent expansion and reconstruction projects for County trunk highways, the cost here can be reasonably estimated at $13 million. Therefore, the local share for taxpayers will total $2.6 million. Again, no acknowledgement of this important and costly issue by City elected officials or the developer.
Traffic Impact Analysis
City of Franklin officials may certainly want to argue that the replacement of the Rawson Avenue and Loomis Road interchange is not stadium related. But of course this will be the project and the TIF that likely triggers significant transportation spending. Further, the developer plan submission specifically indicates “[a]s part of this project plan, it is proposed that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be engaged to explore the possibility of eliminating the west Loomis Road ramps and Old Loomis Road in favor of signalized direct roadway connections to West Loomis Road.” More research is required on this issue but depending on the composition of site users a local funding share for this project may be required from local taxpayers. But even without this interchange reconstruction, transportation spending will, in fact, be transferred to City of Franklin taxpayers because several roads currently under County jurisdiction would be transferred to the City under the development proposal. Even if the construction cost of these roads are added to a TIF, the maintenance, snowplowing and future replacement will all become city taxpayer responsibilities. Where are these costs estimated? The TIA itself cost City taxpayers $70,000. Again, all of this contradicts Franklin official’s public statements.