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Area Business Asks Supervisors For Assistance

By Staff | Apr 21, 2009

The tough economic times are hitting close to home, as the Palo Alto County Supervisors learned first-hand on Tuesday. The Supervisors heard a request for some type of assistance from a West Bend business during their weekly meeting on April 14.

Fred Wirtz, a member of the Board of Directors of the Park View Inn, came before the supervisors looking for some help.

“Basically, our board is wondering if there is any chance of receiving some type of tax abatement on the motel for this year,” Wirtz explained. “We’ve gone to the Assessor, Lois Naig, and she reviewed our valuation and was able to lower it from $978,000 to $551,000, so those taxes will be payable in September of 2010. But, we’re wondering if there is anything you as a board can do for this year.”

“How has the motel been doing? What are you seeing as a trend?” asked Board chair Ed Noonan.

“We’ve had an operating loss every year, but we’ve been making cuts in things like energy savings and such.” Wirtz answered. “I’d like to think the trend is better, but I’m not comfortable guaranteeing that.”

The Park View Inn was constructed following a community effort in West Bend in 2000 and 2001. A public stock sale was conducted and the motel was constructed in 2001. According to Wirtz, there are two people on salary at the business, with several hourly part-time employees.

“I think we as a board need to keep in mind that if we do something, where do we start, and where does it end,” observed Supervisor Jerry Hofstad. “We could be opening the door up for who knows what.”

“I guess I’m thinking you’d be better off to work on lowering your valuation more,” Noonan told Wirtz. “If you can bring in a lower valuation, it would give us as a board something to look at.”

Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard noted that the supervisors could reduce a percentage of the motel’s taxes, if they chose to do so, but would need to see some documentation.

When asked about business as of late, Wirtz noted that the economic downturn was being felt locally. “We rented 85 rooms during the entire month of February, so the winter isn’t good for us. But, we can fill the motel on weekends in the summer, so the summer is obviously much better for us.”

When asked what the Park View had paid in property taxes for 2008, Wirtz replied the figure was around $36,000.

“For a small town business to be paying $36,000 in property taxes, well, it’s no wonder that we’re having trouble keeping businesses going,” commented Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

“I think you need to get an outside appraisal of the motel and see what it would actually be worth,” Noonan suggested. “If you get that, then that would give us something to go from to think about how we might be able to help.”

In other business on Tuesday, the board once again discussed the Integrated Services Pathway (ISP) program in the county jail. The program has been operating for nearly a year on a monthly basis, after it lost its state funding a year ago. Most recently, the board had approved a three-month contract at a cost of $1,056 per month, split between the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s budget and the County Mental Health fund.

On Tuesday, Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg brought a new, three-month contract for the board to consider.

“Our contract for the ISP expired at the end of March, and here it is the middle of April,” Sandberg noted. “I would request that you renew this contract for three months or longer.”

“I still think this program pays for itself in the long run, just through the cost of the medicine it provides,” noted Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

“I’m going to vote no until I know it really saves us money,” Hofstad said. “You’ve got a record of the past year for the cost of medications and counseling. You get those figures and prove to me that this program is saving us money and I’ll vote for it.”

Sandberg was asked if Palo Alto County could drop out of the program for a few months to see about expenses, and then rejoin it if the expenses did not work out.

“I’ve been told that if another county drops out of the ISP, the whole program may very well fold up,” Sandberg answered.

After a moment’s silence, Supervisor Ron Graettinger moved to approve the ISP contract for three months, but with the condition of seeing information on the costs of counseling and medications provided by the ISP. The motion was approved on a 3-2 roll call vote, with Supervisors Graettinger, Wirtz and Leo Goeders voting aye and Supervisors Hofstad and Noonan voting nay.