From now until the end of the year, Patch will be looking back at ten stories that shaped Oak Creek in 2012. Here's the first installment, which was originally posted Feb. 7.
Mayor Al Foeckler, who was appointed by the Common Council following the death of Dick Bolender, said all along he supported moving the city hall and the library to the former Delphi site. But he wasn't sure what he would do if the council was split.
On Tuesday, with the council divided 3-3, we found out our answer.
"With great respect for Mayor Bolender, Mayor Bolender's vision for the Delphi site and the thousands of residents that voted Mayor Bolender to three terms as mayor of Oak Creek, I vote aye," Foeckler said in casting the deciding vote to move forward plans to relocate the city hall and library to the corner of Drexel and Howell avenues.
Voting in favor of the plan were Aldermen Tom Michalski, Ken Gehl and Dan Jakubcyzk.
Aldermen Steve Scaffidi, Michael Toman and Dan Bukiewicz were opposed, saying they needed more questions answered, specifically from the Oak Creek-Franklin School District.
That's because the next step is to negotiate with the school district on land swaps that, as proposed, would end with the school district exchanging 50 acres of land it owns on Oakwood Road and Howell Avenue with the city for the 12-acre Civic Center site - where the city hall and library now stand at Puetz Road and Howell Avenue.
The city, in turn, would swap the Oakwood land with Wispark, the developer and owner of the Delphi property, for seven acres at Delphi to construct the civic buildings as part of a town-center development.
Aldermen said they still didn't have a clear answer from the school district on how its feels about the proposal. But what transpired during a two-hour discussion was something of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario, as some city officials said the school district was waiting on the direction from the council.
City Attorney Larry Haskin said the general parameters of the land swap - including no money changing hands between the school district and city - have been agreed on and now negotiations will hammer out the details. Both the school board and common council would have to give final approval.
If that final approval doesn't come, aldermen would have to re-evaluate their options.
All six aldermen said they supported building a new library at the Delphi site. But they differed quite a bit on other aspects, including the city hall location and how quickly to proceed.
Gehl, one of the alderman voting for the proposal, said that "economically, it makes the most sense to have these buildings at the Delphi site. The opportunity there is immense ... not only from a revenue standpoint, but an opportunity for our citizenry for a new town center - restaurants, shopping, professional services we don't currently have. That opportunity is too great to pass up."
But Toman, who voted in opposition, said he didn't support the land swaps, in addition to concerns about moving forward too soon and the effects of a high school expansion.
"We need a little more input," he said. "There's no sense in making a tens-of-millions of dollars decision this night when there's still some questions out on this council."
Then there is the issue of Foeckler's vote.
Some angst had built in the past several weeks about having a non-elected official in Foeckler cast the deciding vote in a major Oak Creek issue that has been debated for months.
Because, as many have pointed out, it's one that could start a domino effect throughout the community: the future of Oak Creek High School, which could be expanded onto the Civic Center site; the fire station next to the high school, which may be relocated to Centennial Drive; the possible development at Delphi, regarded as one of the top redevelopment projects in the entire region; and a proposed business park near Howell and Oakwood.
In an earlier interview, Scaffidi warned against Foeckler casting a tie-breaking vote, saying he would make a multi-million dollar decision after being appointed by three aldermen.
"If Al casts a tie-breaking vote on this, we will do damage to the reputation and the integrity of the council for years," Scaffidi said Jan. 30.
But Foeckler reiterated Tuesday his support for the proposal, noting a projected 1,500 jobs created with a new business park on Oakwood Road, and said it will lead to a stronger Delphi development.
"It's a win-win-win situation. It's a win at Delphi, it's a win at the corner here (of Puetz and Howell) and it's a win at Howell and Drexel," he said. "Significant tax base being generated, significant number of jobs being generated."