Three Mayor Candidates, Three Contrasting Delphi Opinions

Verhalen, Scaffidi, Michalski have competing views on the city hall/library issue.

It looks increasingly likely that the city hall/library location issue—if it's not decided Tuesday—will at least be decided before the April 3 general election.

But it's one of the most-mentioned topics when Oak Creek mayoral candidates Steve Scaffidi, Tom Michalski and Mark Verhalen talk about their campaigns.

And the three candidates offer three contrasting views of the issue:

Michalski supports moving the library and city hall to the former Delphi property, 7929 S. Howell Ave.

Verhalen opposes moving the buildings.

Scaffidi falls somewhere in the middle.

Let's take a deeper look at what the candidates have said about the issue in interviews with Oak Creek Patch and in public meetings.


Michalski believes the city has proven that constructing the library and city hall at Delphi is the most fiscally-prudent solution and would help make the Delphi redevelopment project successful.

"The rationale that I have for moving both facilities to the Delphi site is, first off, it's cost effective ... I want to get the biggest bang for my buck and I see that over on the Delphi site," he told the audience at a forum co-sponsored by Oak Creek Patch.

"If we're able to make the land swap with the school district, that's going to open up 50 more acres over on Oakwood and Howell that come back onto the tax rolls. The more property we have on the tax rolls, the easier it is to maintain the services we have in the city of Oak Creek and at levels that we like, as opposed to having to cut services without additional funding. The state has said there's no way you're going to increase your taxes without development, and so I think looking forward we need some development and the Delphi site will bring in some premium development with the library and the city hall located there."

In an interview Tuesday, Michalski said he's open to one building containing both the city hall and library, two separate buildings or a partnership that creates a building with a mix of public and private entities.

Whatever the case may be, Michalski feels enough discussion has been had on the issue and the Common Council needs to vote.

"We need to make a decision either way. I ran for alderman in 2006 and this was an issue at that time," he said at the forum. "I made a decision to move to Oak Creek in three weeks ... I think we need to make a decision now. We need a new library."


Verhalen, who sits on the Oak Creek-Franklin School Board, strongly opposes the plan favored by Michalski and other city officials.

For one, Verhalen said city hall can wait. "The city hall issue ... is it a No. 1 necessity of the city? No, I don't think it is. If it were, the city hall would have imploded on itself five years ago. Has it affected the services or the way things are run here? No, it hasn't."

Verhalen said the library should be kept where it is. Construction could start sooner there than at Delphi, which still needs an approved site plan, infrastructure and asphalt removed, Verhalen said.

Verhalen also said a referendum, even if it’s only advisory, should be held to find out how much the community is willing to spend on a new library.

Speaking about the We Energies-related money that is paying for the project, Verhalen said, "Oak Creek's pretty blessed because not everybody has the option of dipping into a funding source every year. For me, in order to keep the city moving forward long term, I think some of that money has to be devoted to economic development and bringing in more businesses to town, focusing on getting more jobs. We've lost a pretty good share of the central job base with Delphi leaving."

Verhalen said he also feels that discussions have taken too long, though he criticized the city for moving forward without enough input from the school district, which would take the Civic Center site (at Howell Avenue and Puetz Road) in the proposed land swap.

"The city hall issue and the library issue have been an issue for three election cycles. We're no further ahead now then when we started. In fact, we're further behind, because at one point they seemed to be rounding the corner to do something with the city hall site and then they went totally off in another direction with Delphi. It's time to get something done instead of messing around."


Scaffidi, the alderman for the city's 3rd District, said he sees the argument for moving the library to Delphi but has not been convinced that city hall needs to relocate as well.

Scaffidi said the library is more pressing than city hall and likes the idea of a public-private partnership. In addition, only working on the library project would space out the construction and lessen the economic impact, he said.

"By doing it one at a time, we can soften the blow for the next few years, because we're only building one building," he said. "To throw all our eggs in a move-both-buildings-$25-million basket is risky from a resident's and taxpayer's perspective. It doesn't mean it wouldn't work, just don't express it in absolute terms like it's guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed."

Scaffidi doesn't agree with how the issue has been framed—that having civic components means a unique development, but keeping them away from Delphi results in a bland site filled with big box stores.

"I'm not buying that argument," he said. "Not going to happen. The council's not—I'm not signing off on something that's crap just because we didn't put city hall there. Why would I? Isn't the idea that we're a on the project so we can have some say?"

And Scaffidi rejected the notion the council has spent too much time talking and too little time acting. The council moved aggressively to clear the Delphi site and lakefront properties and made progress in several other areas in the city, he said. "No one's delaying. We're asking questions, and sometimes people don't like it when you ask questions. That's our job."

He added that he agrees with those who have called for the council to wait until after the April elections to decide.

"I think that should be the case, but I think I've lost the argument," he said. "Even though the mayor doesn't vote, the mayor is the most influential and highest-ranking city official. Giving that job to an appointee, and we're letting that person drive the discussion, that's not very good public policy."

Mark Schaaf February 01, 2012 at 09:27 PM
If that first comment could be re-phrased...would appreciate it.
Patriot February 01, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I am in agreement with Verhalen!! Considering the recent constructin the last few years with the new strip malls located for example Howell & Centenial and on Ryan Road west of the Pilot Gas Station. They both have vacant store fronts, along with other vacant store fronts next to McDonalds, the who area at Ryan & Howell. Do we really need to spend money on a new library and city hall. Sure it sounds nice, would look nice but lets be realistic. How about attracting businesses to fill all the vacant store fronts which in turn would bring revenue to the city. Revenue is what will protect and keep services in Oak Creek. Not un-needed constructin of a Library and City Hall.
Glen D Ferri February 02, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Verhalen's position is the most logical because he is obviously trying to prioritize the most important things the city needs to do. Simply put, prioritizing all of the important work that needs to be done in the city should be done. At that point, execute on those items. The City Hall and Library are likely on that list, but they certainly are not the first two items. Scaffidi doesn't provide an opinion to discuss, "I'd like a Medium Fries and a Medium Soda" solution (so as not to make anyone mad) isn't one. At least take a position if you plan on trying to lead the city as mayor. While I disagree with it, at least Michalski provides his view of the issue so people can discuss it. The suggestion by Michalski that he "believes the city has proven that constructing the city hall and library at Delphi is the most fiscally-prudent solution" is not logical. First off, who proved this and how was it proven? Secondly, how is spending the money it would take to move these two buildings the most fiscally-prudent solution? Doing nothing with the site is more fiscally-prudent. Even if there is a cost to doing nothing, how long could doing nothing be supported by the amount of money it would take to build the new buildings. Originally, the new interchange at I-94 & Drexel was being done in an effort to open up the Delphi site for new development. It would be more fiscally-prudent to have a private investment on the site that would generate tax revenue for the City.
Jill Schlidt February 02, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I believe Scaffidi's position supports both the long-term and short-term goals of the City. In the short-term, his proposed solutions minimizes costs to be incurred as the City begins to replace some of its aging infrastucure. The City Hall, library and city garage, all located on the corner of Howell and Puetz, have served us well but all these buildings useful lives are nearing an end. Under the Scaffidi proposal, the library is moved first while we continue to use City Hall for an additional period of time, thus spreading the costs of new construction over a period of time. The move of the library and garage will free up much needed room to allow for the expansion of the high school in the next few years as high school approaches its capacity. The commitment by the City to free up the land on the corner of Howell and Puetz allows the high school to divest itself of the property on the corner Oakwood and Howell (50 acres) which would then return to the City's tax rolls. Without a commitment from the City to free up the space by the high school, the School Board will in all likelyhood continue to sit on the 50 acres of land on the corner of Howell and Oakwood. Although doing nothing is an option, it is not a good option as both the high school and City buildings will need improvements in short order. And unlike the option of moving it all, the Scaffidi plan minimizes the total property taken off the tax rolls by the City and School system.
Andy February 02, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I think Scaffidi couldn't be more clear.. Verhalen sounds confusing to me.. What is his plan for way over crowded high school?? A lot of residents I know have to go to Franklin or Cudahy to use a Library way more advanced than ours with a lot better help and things for kids. Library first then City Hall.. Couldn't be more clear than that Scaffidi you have my vote and many others in neighborhood.
BringBackOakCreek09 February 03, 2012 at 02:09 AM
You want a good idea, here we go. Knock down the library. Expand and remodel the city hall keeping it at its current location. Build the library across from the post office, they want to build the fire station there anyway which DOES NOT need to be replaced if they move city hall.. It would still be close for kids to walk there from the high school. The city of Oak Creek is centered at howell and puetz, not drexel an howell. The delphi site should be used for bigger and better ideas. For the highschool, thats another headache. It might be time, not to rid city hall from that corner but the highschool. We have the land, maybe an actual new, bigger highschool is an order. i would not support to have two highschools in oak creek. The present mayor is moving things way too fast and i dont like how he's leaving the people out of this.
sally3141 February 03, 2012 at 02:32 AM
I would like to know if the new Middle School and Police staion are paid for yet and what effect will this have on my property taxes.
concerned citizen February 03, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Let's face it, residents go to city hall when they NEED to, not when they WANT to. So let's use the space away from the retail strip on Oakwood and Howell for that building, and use the Delphi property to expand businesses, and that area is where they reside anyway.
OCConcerned Citzien February 03, 2012 at 04:06 AM
All I know is the school system board doesn't know what they are doing. The administration didn't even bother to show up for the meeting.
vocal local 1 February 03, 2012 at 06:33 AM
Sally, neither the police station (5.5mil) or the streets renovation (7mil) are paid for yet. In addition the tif district formed to pay for the Drexel Ave. interchange,(10.5 mil) is not paying and we have to finance this debt. Roughly speaking were 23 mil in debt without an additional 25 mil projected building costs of Library and City Hall. In addition, were roughly 75 mil in the hole on retiree and future retiree promised medical costs. We will have costs related to the lake front freeway (?mil) and both Pennsylvania (4 mil) and Puetz (2.5 mil) Roads require repair. City also has tenative plans to replace both fire station one and two. Estimated costs of 3.5 mil each. We have two bridges that require repairs and other annual street resurfacing plus nothing will happen on the lakefront until street access is improved. Expansion of roads into Carrollville is definately an expensive challenge as they will need a RR overpass. School District debt is questionable. I'd speculate somewhere b/w fifty and seventy five mil. I know that they have refinanced old debt to decrease annual payment to balance the budget claiming refinancing didn't cost more as the dollar will be worth more down the line. We could cut the population at the HS if we can cut the out of district transfer in students which the district continues to accept annually in order to receive state money per student count. Helps to balance the current years budget but contributes to over crowding and space needs.
O S February 05, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Why not combine the library with the school boards library. Can that be done and save money for taxpayers?
Lifetime Citizen February 21, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Clearly we have no expertise in the city to architect the various initiatives that need planning: the High School, Library, City Hall, and Attracting businesses. 1) We need to prioritize our projects 2) we need options on each initiative 3) when we have those options we then see what can be leveraged together 4) the options need to be thorough and include priority, timeline, scope and budget 5) the options need to be put to referendum 6) We need to start the work Personally, I'd like to see a 2 nd, fully functioning High School to offer opportunities to more kids rather than 1 giant High School which requires kids to specialize and become mini pros at a young age. I'd leave the library and city all at their current location and rebuild I'd try to attract economic development to the Delphi site (please, please, please not yet another crappy strip mall with crappy little businesses cycling through.) Lets go after some big fish the likes of Northwestern Mutual.
DrMom February 22, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I for one am sick of the strip malls that are usually owned by persons/corps from out of state who offer high rents and poor service to their tenents. This is that which causes them to be consistently vacant. The Delphi location needs must be replaced with only one or at most two manufacturing or other large (emphasis on large) business that will bring in jobs. While our City hall and Public Library should only be rebuilt if it can be done so as the East Middle Scool was. On the parking lot directly adjacent to the south of it. Moving the Library away from the High School students who frequent the facility after school hours are completed is rediculous as most students do not drive and the hours are limited. Just how do you expect those students to get there if it is moved? This type of lack in planning and consideration for those who utilize the facilities astounds me. One can only hope that with a new mayor we will get better direction.
vocal local 1 February 23, 2012 at 08:43 AM
Looks to me per the survey included post the article that Scaffidi's the favorite. Interestingly the comments don't reflect the same ideology. If one can discern fact from fiction Verhalen is our best choice. He is not playing the media/residents. He is making definative statements on his position and including the pubic in the decision making process/future rises in taxes. Scaffidi, voted pubically against moving the Library to the Delphi Site. In contrast, repeatedly he pubically supports development of the Delphi Site with business/commercial which the majority of us don't see as productive, but more of the failing same. 18% of the resident's voted in the primary with the majority voting Scaffidi. It is important to note the OC residents don't have a clue as to what is really going on at city hall and when told the truths still blindly evidence support of a mayor that is going to put us in debt for years and years to come with unnecessary spending while the nation faces economic crisis. Scaffidi and Bolender stripped the reserve funding.WERE BROKE FOLKS. Scaffidi voted for the at least 20 million of debt were acquiring this year. He voted to pay Wis Park as the Delphi Project Managers and granted them broad discreationary authority. Scaffidi is talking out of both side of his mouth as most politicians that want your vote dishonestly do. A vote for Scaffidi is a vote for debt and ongoing financial instability. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Read the minutes if you don't believe me.
Jill Schlidt February 23, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Vocal Local 1 you need to go back to school to learn how to spell!
vocal local 1 February 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM
PRODUCT OF OAK CREEK FRANKLIN SCHOOLS>>> Now what do ya got to say? Have you checked your kids lately? Are they any better? Methinks, Not.
Logical February 24, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Thank you Loco Vocal. I always know I should vote for the person you are NOT supporting.
vocal local 1 February 25, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Pray Tell: Did Ronald Regan as a movie actor play the most infamous part in his life as live, on stage, President of the United States?
vocal local 1 February 25, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Logical, Please logically explain. comprende?


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