Oak Creek Mayoral Candidates Differ On Land Swaps
Verhalen opposed to exchanges involving Oakwood, Civic Center and Delphi site; Scaffidi is in favor.
Several issues that could play a huge role in the future of Oak Creek have come to the forefront in recent weeks and months.
Wouldn't you know it, they also coincided with a busy election season that includes a race for an open mayoral seat, forcing candidates to take stands and cast votes.
There was already plenty of contrast between Oak Creek mayoral candidates Steve Scaffidi and Mark Verhalen to give residents a true choice when they head to the polls Tuesday, and these issues have provided even clearer distinctions.
One was the Feb. 7 vote to move the library and city hall to the Delphi site, 7929 S. Howell Ave. Scaffidi said he supported only moving the library there, while Verhalen favored keeping both buildings where they are.
The land swaps that accompany that plan have also showed a major difference.
Under the proposal, the Oak Creek-Franklin School District would exchange 50 acres near Oakwood Road and Howell Avenue for the 12-acre Civic Center site, which would be used for a high school expansion. The school district would also get a 16-acre site on Drexel Avenue for a future elementary school.
The city would then swap the 50 acres on Oakwood Road with Wispark for seven acres at the Delphi site, on which to build a new city hall and library.
Verhalen was the only Oak Creek-Franklin School Board member to vote against the plan. He said the values of the properties weren't equal and the plan needed more public input.
"I think the school board is being taken advantage of," Verhalen said before the vote. "In the bigger picture, I think the taxpayers of the city are being taken advantage of."
He has also criticized the city for forcing the school district into the situation. Speaking at a March 22 forum co-sponsored by Oak Creek Patch, Verhalen said the school district should have dealt directly with Wispark, the developer and owner of the Delphi site.
"We played the hand we were dealt and we're all going down that road now," he said.
With the school board approval in tow, the land exchanges will be presented to the Oak Creek Common Council on Monday, the night before the election. Passage is expected, since the Feb. 7 relocation vote included conceptual support of the land swaps.
While Scaffidi voted against the library and city hall move, he said the city needs to put that decision behind it and move forward on redeveloping the Delphi site.
"You have to respect the decision of the council. They have the final say, and in this instance, they chose to move the buildings. I disagreed with that," Scaffidi said. "We're not rehashing that decision. This is accepting the terms that our city attorney and the school district attorney worked out."
Scaffidi said the vote coming so close to the election isn't ideal, but it shouldn't wait until after the election.
"The Plan Commission had to review it first, and that didn't get scheduled. Otherwise it would have gotten done at the last meeting (March 20)," he said.
"You can make that argument (that the vote should wait until after the election). The counter to that is the people who were actually involved with the discussion are the ones who are making the vote.
"We've talked about this the whole time I've been on the council. It was talked about in the previous one or two councils. The danger with always delaying is that you never get anything done."
For more coverage on the mayor's race and all other races on the ballot April 3, check out our Election Central page.