Business park could be decided by voters
There are some people who believe the decision of whether to build a business park should be made by the residents of Baldwin, and there seems to be some Baldwin City Council members who agree with them.
"I've had a lot of feedback the past couple weeks. There are people who have approached me that thought we ought not to spend any more money until we get a public vote," Council Member Ted Brecheisen said. "I seem to think before we spend any more money, we ought to let people make a decision on it. I think it's the right thing.
"I think when you're going to spend people's tax money, when you're going to raise the mill levy to support it, I think it should be something people should vote on," he said.
Council Member Nancy Brown agreed and said she had also heard about the issue from several citizens.
"I've been getting similar queries," she said. "Interestingly enough, they're from people on both sides of the issue. They just think it ought to be up for a vote."
City and county officials have spent the last several months developing a plan to build a business park on a 43-acre section of land along U.S. Highway 56 on the northwest edge of Baldwin.
Baldwin officials hope to partner with Douglas County on the project. The plan is for the county to buy the land, leaving the city responsible for developing it.
Council Member Ken Wagner said he had concerns about the cost of putting the issue on the ballot, as well as the precedent it could possibly set.
"We've made expenditures of a similar magnitude and not ever put it on the ballot," he said. "We haven't been consistent with that type of action before. Will we be setting a precedent?"
Brown said putting the issue on the ballot would enable citizens to become more educated about the business park than they would be if the decision was left up to the city.
"It provides us both an opportunity and responsibility to make sure the public is educated on this," she said. "It's better to get it out in public than hear it over a cup of coffee or over the back fence."
Council Member Amy Cleavinger said her concern would be that emotions would play into citizens' votes.
"I want to see people take the time to understand it instead of making an emotional decision," she said.
Council Member Tony Brown agreed emotions could factor in to citizens' votes. He said he thought the business park decision was a responsibility of the city council.
"We are stewards of city government," he said. "It falls on us to weigh those issues."
Mayor Ken Hayes said there wouldn't be enough time to put the business park issue on the ballot for the November election, but there was time to have it in place for the April election, which was something he thought the council should consider.
"From what I've heard tonight, we really need to seriously investigate putting this on the ballot," he said.
In other business, the city council:
- Approved in a 5-0 vote temporary parking restrictions for the Maple Leaf Festival.
- Approved in a 5-0 vote to deed 25 feet of the 13th Street right-of-way, adjacent to 1302 High St., to Richard and Judie Barkley.