City council approves bond sale for street, park projects

The Watertown City Council approved the sale of $2,265,000 in bonds during its Aug. 13 meeting to finance the city’s upcoming park and street improvement projects.

Interest rate bids were accepted at public market on Monday, Aug. 13, when five bids were received from around the country. The best interest rate — and the bid accepted by the city — was a 1.7 percent bid offered by BOSC, Inc., in Menomonee Falls, Wis. That number came in even lower than 2-2.5 percent range the city was anticipating.

As part of the bond issuance, the city recently went through a bond rating process by Moody’s Investment Services. Based on current market conditions and some instability in the city’s enterprise funds, the city’s overall rating was actually downgraded from A1 to A2.

The downgrade, however, seemed to have little, if any, impact on the interest rate bids the city received. Paul Donna, the city’s independent financial advisor with Northland Securities, Inc., said the city received strong bids from various cities around the country for several reasons. First, the $2.265 million bond is a fairly significant amount, and secondly, municipal bonds, especially for cities like Watertown, with A-category rankings, are seen as being among the safest investments in an uncertain economy.

In other business:
The city council approved a new ordinance that will better clarify who is responsible for the maintenance of common areas in the city’s subdivisions, and also facilitate the upkeep of those areas.

The issue came to light as several residents from the King’s Highland neighborhood approached the city with questions regarding who is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the retaining wall along Castle Ridge Road, as well as the cul-de-sac islands. Initially, it was planned that residents would maintain the retaining wall, which is on easement property, and the neighborhood association would maintain the cul-de-sac islands.

However, there currently is not an active association in King’s Highland neighborhood, as is the case in most of the city’s subdivisions. The new policy will encourage and empower residents in those neighborhoods to informally get together to maintain the common areas, which is not the city’s responsibility.

Under the policy, the city will provide low-cost supplies, services and equipment to homeowners to assist with the maintenance. City planner Crystal Paumen said the program would work similar to the city’s Adopt-A-Park program, where volunteer groups are given some supplies, but generally provide much of the labor to maintain the parks.

The new policy does not apply to subdivisions where an association collects dues for such upkeep, or to work that has been contracted out.

• The city council approved the re-appointment of Wade Stock as fire chief. This is the first year the fire department is implementing a formal application, interview and appointment process to replace its former election process. The switch is designed to create better stability within the department.

Stock’s application was the only one for fire chief this year. Stock has served on the fire department since 1993, and served as captain from 2000-2005, assistant fire chief from 2006-2009, and chief since 2009. City administrator Luke Fischer noted that Stock has received praise for his leadership ability and careful budget management.

The new application process calls for three department members, the city administrator, and one city council member to review applications and conduct interviews. The committee made a unanimous recommendation to reappoint Stock for a 2-year term.

• The council approved a request by the Luce Line Lodge to close part of Lewis Avenue from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sept. 2 for a street dance. The event will feature live music from 8 p.m. to midnight.