By approving a conceptual plan last week, the Oak Creek Common Council has laid out the city's priorities for the next several years.
The lakefront and Drexel Avenue move to the front burner.
A new south-side fire station, Puetz Road reconstruction and Pennsylvania Avenue (from Drexel to Rawson) take a back seat.
A new City Hall and library remain top of mind.
That’s the jist of a new resolution that spells out how the city will spend its public utility aid – roughly $3 million per year – it gets from hosting We Energies’ power plant.
Aldermen and city officials were quick to point out that it doesn’t lock the council into doing anything and that each project still requires a separate vote.
But it does provide something of a roadmap for how the city will proceed over the next decade.
“This really establishes community priority projects for a long time,” City Administrator Gerald Peterson said.
The plan calls for Oak Creek to spend $10 million in public utility aid on lakefront redevelopment, though it will be spent gradually over several years, Peterson said. It’s likely the final public investment will be well over $10 million, Peterson said.
So far, $1 million is allocated in the proposed 2012 budget and another $1 million in 2013. Oak Creek also expects to generate revenue through tax-incremental financing and the sale of parcels that will bring city investment into the $15 million to $20 million range, Peterson said.
“This isn’t next year, this isn’t two years, this is, again, a multi-year basis to be able to bring that project to fruition,” he said.
Oak Creek proposed an increase in lakefront funding in large part to make it clear that they are serious about redevelopment.
“This is obviously a significant step,” City Attorney Larry Haskin said. “It’s important to demonstrate to those we are seeking grants from the commitment of the city to the lakefront redevelopment.”
Drexel Avenue is a little bit of a different story.
The city already committed to spending $4.5 million toward the creation of the Drexel Interchange, and that money was to come through a tax-incremental financing district.
However, the decline in real estate value in Oak Creek meant that the city did not have sufficient revenue to continue with a TIF and had to look for a different source, according to a report to council members.
The city also needed to reconstruct Drexel Avenue from 27th Street to the interstate to accommodate the interchange. And the clock was ticking – construction will begin early next year.
So officials turned to the public utility aid – a tax that We Energies pays as part of an agreement to build its power plant in Oak Creek. The tax is paid to the state, which redistributes about $3 million per year to Oak Creek.
Officials expect that money invested into Drexel Avenue will pay off down the road.
“The city fully expects that when the interchange is put in, that there’s going to be economic development activity in the area surrounding the interchange,” Haskin said.
But because of the impending Drexel Avenue work, officials had to move something off the list and chose to delay replacing (on Oakwood Road) and the reconstruction of Puetz Road near the freeway and Pennsylvania Avenue from Rawson to Drexel.
Officials in the report said they expect that will solve traffic congestion issues. will allow that facility to continue to serve the east side of Oak Creek and the We Energies power plant, according to the report.
Replacing , 240 E. Puetz Road, is still in the city's plans.
As for Pennsylvania Avenue, . Officials said that congestion south of Rawson is "not as pressing for the city as are the Drexel Interchange and Drexel Avenue reconstruction projects."
The plan also lays out another change - reducing funding for a new City Hall and library from $20 million to $15 milion. The reduction means downsizing both new buildings, Alderman Dan Bukiewicz aid.
However, the City Hall/library issue is expected to get some clarity in the coming weeks as the Common Council debates whether to keep those buildings at the corner of Puetz and Howell or move them to the former Delphi site.
The true scope of a new City Hall and public library - both size and cost - probably wouldn't be known until next year.