Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tips on Talking to Kids About Dealing with Strangers

As you've seen in an earlier blog post and in the local news, the City Police Department (in cooperation with multiple other agencies) is investigating a possible child abduction attempt that occurred earlier this week near Northside Intermediate School. Understandably so, our Police Department has received calls from parents with questions about how best to talk with our children about "stranger danger" and the like. My wife and I have two small kids of our own, so this certainly hits home for us.

There are some on-line resources that you may want to check out if you are looking to learn more about how to educate your children:

In addition, Police Chief Schuetz has a few suggestions to offer. Below are his thoughts and comments...

In the wake of our community’s recent possible child abduction attempt in Milton, the Milton Police Department has put together the following safety tips for parents and families which are designed to help parents with what to tell your children about dealing with strangers who approach them. Important to remember as we talk to our children is that Milton is a very safe place to live, work, visit and go to school. Nonetheless, like all communities there is always a chance that someone could come here to try to hurt one of our kids. For that reason we offer the following suggestions as to how to address what recently happened, and keep your kids safe in the future.

1) Tell the truth. Kids find out about information happening in the community from a variety of different information sources and often times what they hear is inaccurate information. It is important that parents clearly communicate what did and did not happen and to clarify questions or concerns kids may have by being honest with them. A suggested response to this most recent incident may be "The police are looking for someone who asked a child to get into a car. They don't know yet if that person was going to try to hurt the child or not. Do you know what you would do if someone you didn't know asked you for a ride in their car?"

2) Do not scare children: Scaring kids unnecessarily instills fear in them. Fear tenses up fine motor skills which can create confusion and limits a child’s ability to make good decisions. Emphasize positive strengths in your children telling them that they will know what to do if a bad situation presents itself. While we want to encourage children to be apprehensive of strangers, we do not want our children to live in a world of fear where every adult is out to get them or hurt them.

3) Teach, train and practice safety with children: The best things parents can do is provide their children with a skill set full of confidence whereby they will know what to say and do in all dangerous situations. Be it safety in crossing the street up or what to do when a stranger approaches them. One of the best ways to do this is to run your child through scenarios of role playing, whereby they practice what to say when approached by a stranger. Practice those skits with your children so that they have a reference within their memory that builds confidence in them as to what to say and do if a stranger approaches them. As part of that training, always tell them to tell an adult they trust about what happened right away.

These simple tips can help you as parents develop skills in young people that keep our kids safe.

ATC / Rock Energy Cooperative Attending Nov. 3rd Council Meeting

I provided information about a new power transmission line proposal in an earlier blog post: http://miltonmatters.blogspot.com/2009/10/new-power-line-route.html. Here's an update: At the request of the City, representatives from the American Transmission Company and Rock Energy Cooperative will be attending the Common Council meeting on November 3rd at 7:30 PM. The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers (lower level of the Shaw Municipal Building). Residents who have comments, questions or concerns about the transmission line proposal are welcome to attend and will have an opportunity to speak to the Council and the ATC/REC representatives.

YMCA Update

A blog reader recently asked me for an update on the YMCA / Crossridge Park project. As you may remember, the City sold 5 acres of land within Crossridge Park to the YMCA of Northern Rock County for the development of a YMCA facility. Click here for the news story that was posted on the City website at that time (which includes a link to the conceptual site plan design).

I asked the YMCA's Executive Director, Dr. Tom Den Boer, for an update that I could share with all of you. Here's what he had to say in an e-mail to me this morning...

"The excitement and momentum continues to build for the new Crossridge YMCA. Currently, the YMCA is working through the final stages in regards to facility design and program development. Next steps include schematic facility plans, pro-forma budget plans, land development costs along with the development of the capital funding for the project."

So, all in all, this is good news and the City is excited to continue growing together with YMCA of Northern Rock County. As more information become available I'll be sure to share it on the blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Council to Discuss Valuation Error This Thursday - Oct. 29th

Related to my blog from yesterday afternoon, I am posting to confirm that the City Council will hold a meeting this Thursday, Oct. 29th, at 6:00 PM to discuss the valuation error and its impact. This is a planned budget workshop meeting, however we will be spending a majority of the meeting discussing the valuation error issue. I have confirmation that both our assessor, Lee DeGroot from Accurate, and financial advisor, Todd Taves from Ehlers & Assoc., will be in attendance.

We had originally planned on discussing this issue at the regular Council Meeting on Nov. 17th, however it works with our meeting schedule on Thursday. The meeting will begin at 6:00 PM and will be held in the Council Chambers in the lower level of the Shaw Municipal Building (430 E. High St.).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Assessment Valuation Error & Explanation

I want to provide a heads-up on a recent issue that City staff are still trying to understand regarding an error in property valuation in one of the City’s TIF Districts. I will apologize from the get go, because some of this information is highly technical. But, with this posting I hope to boil some of the issues down as simply as I can.

This is an issue that City staff and our financial advisors are still getting to the bottom of and have been for a couple of months. It entirely surrounds a valuation error that occurred in how the City’s contracted assessor reported TID 8 value to the State’s Department of Revenue. This valuation process is outside the purview of City staff, and is part of the reporting that occurs between our assessor and the DOR. Long and short of it is that TID 8 was overvalued by $30+ million.

Here’s the basics… In the most recent final property value reports for TIF District #8 (which is the downtown area on the east-side of the City), the City’s contracted assessor (Accurate Appraisals) placed the base value of the district (approximately $30 million) in the wrong column. Accurate thought, based on previous conversations they had with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), that this was the proper procedure. However, the DOR did not recognize this as “base value”; rather they considered it “newly added” value. Unfortunately, the City’s preliminary version of this report showed the values in the correct column, but the final report was adjusted by Accurate and submitted to the DOR without opportunity for City review. Therefore, we had no opportunity to catch the error. To our disappointment, neither Accurate nor the DOR caught the error as part of their own due diligence.

I may have confused some of you already. Basically, this means that the City’s overall value (including the TIF Districts) is artificially HIGHER than it should be by $30 million. However, for the other taxing jurisdictions (most notably the School District) the City’s value is artificially LOWER by that amount because new TID values are excluded.

So, what does this mean to the taxpayer in Milton? For the City share of the tax bill, the City is working to use some fiscal techniques to minimize the impact. Fortunately, the City has a healthy fund balance and we are working with our financial advisor to structure an out/in transaction with the general fund and TID to “buffer” the City taxation impact. At the same time, this will leave funds within the TID similar to the income it would have regularly generated.

Believe it or not, these valuation errors occur statewide more regularly than you might think. However, we haven’t seen this type of error in Milton’s recent history, and certainly the magnitude of this error is hard to ignore. The DOR has a process to correct overvaluation errors in which the TID is “undervalued” during the next two years. That’s fine, but it still has an impact on what taxation looks like for the next few years until we get back to “normal”.

In the end it comes out in the wash, but until we get to that point we’ll have to grapple with the confusion that comes with this error. It’s tough to understand, but let me try to explain the correction process. For the School District the City valuation will be artificially lower because they use a value with the TID excluded (called TID OUT). Next year (as part of the correction method used by the DOR) and the year after, the City valuation will be artificially higher.
So, for the School District portion of the tax bill, City of Milton property owners will be paying less this year than they would have paid in normal conditions (somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 - $30 for an average home). Non-City taxpayers to the district will be paying proportionately more. Then, in the correction years that trend switches and City of Milton taxpayers will pay more and non-City will pay less. Again, that is how correction is achieved per state statutes.

I have scheduled our financial advisor and our assessor to attend the Nov. 17th Common Council meeting to explain the circumstances, ramifications and solutions. Also, I have posted in the City’s website copies of correspondence from the City’s Assessor, City’s financial advisor, and State Department of Revenue which go further to explain what’s happening from each of their perspectives: www.ci.milton.wi.us/document_display.aspx?cat_id=385&cat_type=.

I do want to be clear on one point. This is not a problem with the TID itself. It’s an issue with the valuation reporting between the Assessor and the State. TID 8 is actually doing well, with several projects having taken place over the past couple of years (it was created in August of 2007). Several fa├žade grants have been completed. Plus, the Council has just initiated a process to seek grant funds to help with long term planning and visioning for this important downtown district in the community.

As this issue moves forward, I'll attempt to provide further explanation and clarity as best I can.

Information on Child Abduction Attempt

Below is text from a press release issued by the Milton Police Department this afternoon...

The City of Milton Police Department is actively investigating a possible child abduction attempt near Northside Elementary School in the City of Milton. On Tuesday, October 27th 2009 in the early afternoon a student reported to authorities a possible abduction attempt that allegedly took place on Monday afternoon, Oct. 26th 2009.

The report from the student indicates that on Monday Oct. 26th, 2009 at approximately 4:00 pm a dark colored, full sized van was parked near the front of 33 Northside Drive. The student described the driver of that vehicle as a black male between 20-30 years of age wearing glasses. The driver allegedly slid over to the passenger seat of that dark colored van type vehicle, rolled down the passenger side window and began speaking with the student.

According to the complainant, the driver began to ask the child if they wanted a ride. The child responded no, and the driver allegedly asked the child again several times if they wanted a ride, stating such phrases as “come on”. When the child stated they were going to the home of a relative, the driver reportedly stated to the child “I can get you there quicker”.

After the child repeatedly told the driver that they did not want a ride, the driver of the van made a u-turn with the vehicle in the roadway and proceeded to head north on Northside Drive.

Anyone with information related to this incident is encouraged to contact the City of Milton Police Department at 608-868-6910 or the Rock County Communications center at 608-757-2244.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your Recycling Goes Where???

Every once in a while we get a question from a resident who wants to know why the recycling was thrown in the same truck as the trash. Well, it's true... At times, Waste Management does use a truck the takes BOTH recycling and trash, however it's remains separated in two different compartments.

Check out this picture supplied by Waste Management. This is called a "one pass" truck. As you see, the "hopper" has two sides. When that hopper is emptied into the top of the truck, the items from each side remain separated. Then, when the truck goes to dump its contents, the trash goes to the landfill and the recycling goes to a material recovery facility.

As always, thanks so much for your efforts at recycling in Milton. As a reminder, if you find that your recycling container is too large or too small for your needs, keep in mind that there are three sizes you can chose from. The standard size is 64 gallons, however they also have 96 and 35 gallon sizes that you can use. To inquire about alternative container sizes, contact Waste Management at 1-877-WMWASTE or WMEservice@wm.com. Or contact City Hall at 868-6900 and we'd be happy to help you out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dealing with Flu in the Workplace

Our community, like many, is experiencing a lot of families with children out sick from school. Many strands of illness are popping up in our region. Here is a link with some good strategies on how to reduce the risk of catching the flu and slowing its spread throughout the workplace. This information is specifically geared toward the workplace, so you may want to share this with your employer and co-workers.

http://healthyamericans.org/reports/flu/brochures/FluBrochure.pdf

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Power Line Route

Last evening the American Transmission Company and Rock Energy Cooperative held a public hearing in Milton to discuss plans and potential routes for power lines to serve a new electrical substation on the east side of Milton. For more information on this hearing and the plans, you can do the following:

The Common Council discussed this proposal on Tuesday this week, and they have specific concerns about the impact of one proposal that would involve following the rail line through the City as the route for the power line. We know that this project is important for ensuring reliable and adequate power supply for our community, however the Council believes that other routes present more practical solutions. Admittedly, any route will have an impact on property owners; the goal should be to seek the most minimal impact possible.

At the Council's request, I have invited ATC representatives to attend one of the Council meetings in November (either the 3rd or 17th). They are very willing to attend and discuss the proposals with the Council. When a date is firmed up, I'll be sure to update the blog with that information. In the meantime, anyone seeking more information should check out the links above.

Protecting Your Identity and Credit

I was watching the 10 o'clock news last night, and saw a consumer protection story that is worth sharing. So, thanks to NBC 15, here's a bit of useful information...

Many have heard about identity theft and the damage that can be done to your personal credit rating by those who mis-use your identity. One thing that you can do, at no cost to you, is place a "fraud alert" on your credit report. This alert is good for 90 days, and you will be e-mailed a notice to renew that alert over and over.

When you or someone else attempts to open a credit account in your name, increase the credit limit on an existing account, or obtain a new card on an existing account, the lender takes steps to verify that you have authorized the request. With the alert, the lender will have to go even further to verify the identity of the applicant. So, anyone who may be attempting to use your identity to open a new account will have their efforts thwarted before they can ever open the account.

The good news is this is free and only takes a few minutes to do. You can find more information at http://www.equifax.com/answers/set-fraud-alerts/en_cp. Issuing the "fraud alert" at this site will automatically issue the alert with all three credit rating bureaus.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mystery Solved...

"Great Job!" to the whole cast and crew that was involved in the Murder Mystery fundraising event this past weekend at The Gathering Place. It was another great showcase of The Gathering Place as a location for wonderful community events. Also showcased was the talent we have in the people right here in the Milton area. A warm thank you also goes out to everyone who attended in support of The Gathering Place.

PS - Here's a few shout-outs... Jerry - Nice cape. Cori - Nice pig-tails. Rick - Nice grey eyebrows. Jon - Nice pretend dying. Best acting award goes to the guy who played the mannequin in the band uniform (rear-left in the photo).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloween Safety Tips from Chief Schuetz

In conjunction with the Rock County Sheriff’s Department, the City of Milton Police Department is reminding citizens to follow the following safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable Halloween for all this year. “Trick or Treat” hours are scheduled in Milton on Saturday, Oct. 31st, 2009 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. All of us at the Milton Police Department hope you enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by following these simple safety tips:
  • Choose a Safe Costume: A good costume is one that is highly visible and flame resistant. Make sure that your mask or make-up allows for good vision so that you can look both ways when you cross the street.
  • Bring A Flashlight or a Cell-Phone: the illuminated display helps you see and keeps you visible to others and vehicles.
  • Obey Traffic Signals and Stay on Sidewalks: Respect people’s private property by staying on sidewalks. Traffic signals exist for your safety and thus it is important to follow them.
  • Inspect Candy: Although tampering is rare, please remember to have an adult inspect candy before it is eaten. Report anything suspicious found in any item handed out to the Milton Police Department immediately.
  • Adults Accompany Children: Regardless of age, an adult should accompany children trick or treating. Children should be taught to never enter a home of a stranger they do not know unless accompanied by an adult.
  • Adult Responsible Enjoyment of Halloween: To our adult citizens, remember that more children will be out and about walking on Halloween. Due to the increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic we ask you to drive with extra caution. If you plan on attending a Halloween party and consuming alcohol, remember to utilize a designated driver.

Following these simple steps will help us at the Milton Police Department keep our community a safe place for all to enjoy the fun activities associated with Halloween.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Being Prepared for Development

Earlier today I enjoyed the opportunity to speak at the Rock-Green Realtors Association membership meeting. The meeting included presentations from community leaders from Janesville, Beloit, Edgerton and Milton. We all spoke with a similar theme... Economic development progress is cyclical - like an ocean's tide, it rises and falls. In Milton, like our neighboring cities, we have focused planning efforts related specifically to all sectors of our community, including downtown commercial, industrial and residential.

I shared a story that being prepared for economic development opportunities is much like a scene from the movie Finding Nemo. It's the scene where Dory swims down into a dark abyss, and sings to herself, "Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming..." Want a reminder of this scene? Click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmyUkm2qlhA. The analogy is that to prepared for economic development opportunities, cities need to "keep on planning, planning, planning..." So, when opportunity comes, we are ready to provide the infrastructure, property, and tools to move development from concept to reality.

Channel 3 out of Madison provided some coverage of the event. Here's the web article which includes a video clip: http://www.channel3000.com/news/21299833/detail.html. Special thanks to the Rock-Green Realtors Association for hosting the event.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween Trick-or-Treating Hours

Halloween Trick-or-Treating hours in the City will be 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 31st. I hope to see many of you out in your most ghoulish costumes. Last I heard, my daughter Sydney is going as Snow White and son Sawyer is going as a pirate.

If you want to start getting into the spooky season, consider attending one of the following events at the Milton Public Library:
  • Bats @ the Library, Tuesday, October 20th, 6:30 p.m. – Bat Conservation of Wisconsin will be bringing live bats to the library just in time for Halloween. Learn why these mammals are not so spooky after all. No registration is necessary.
  • Paint-A-Pumpkin, Friday, October 30th, 10:00 a.m.-noon – Free pumpkin-painting for all ages. All supplies included. Registration is required.

Stay informed about other events at the Milton Public Library by logging on to their website at www.miltonpubliclibrary.org.

Above all else this Halloween season, stay safe. I'll be posting a blog entry in a few days with more information on best practices for staying safe while trick-or-treating. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cabin Restoration at the Milton House / "Dracula" Performance

Check out this article from the Janesville Gazette regarding ongoing work to restore the Goodrich Cabin: http://gazettextra.com/news/2009/oct/10/work-begins-historic-milton-property/. The article also includes information about an upcoming fundraising performance of "Dracula" at the Milton College Main Hall Chappel.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What is "Public Fire Protection"?

COMMON QUESTION: What is the purpose of the “Public Fire Protection” charge on my monthly utility bill?

ANSWER: The PFP charge (also known as hydrant rental charge) recovers the costs related to the capacity of the water supply system available to fight fires within the City's water service area. These costs include a portion of the wells, pumps, storage facilities, water mains, hydrants and an estimated quantity of water used for this purpose.

This cost is NOT used to pay for services provided by the Joint Milton / Milton Fire Department, but is specifically used to maintain the supply of water to the fire hydrants throughout the community. The Fire Department itself is funded primarily using property taxes.

We understand that this is often very confusing for people as they read their bill. Unfortunately, this terminology is what the Public Service Commission requires us to use.

Oh, and one friendly reminder... Don't park in front of fire hydrants. That is, unless you are interested in a ticket and a new open-air ventilation system for your car...





Heads Up - Changes to your October Utility Bill

For months the City has been publicly discussing the increase in water and sewer rates and the addition of the stormwater utility. These changes will first appear on the utility bill which will be mailed by October 16th.

Despite the City's informational campaign to inform residents about these changes, I'm sure there are many that will still be surprised by the changes. That's okay and is to be expected. So, to help those who may not yet be aware of the upcoming changes or would just like a reminder, the City has prepared a two-page summary of the changes and impact. You can view this flier by following this link: http://www.ci.milton.wi.us/document_detail.aspx?document_id=2881.

In addition, a wide variety of information specifically detailing the stormwater utility is posted on-line at http://www.ci.milton.wi.us/stormwaterutility.aspx. This page includes frequently asked questions and even an on-line video in which staff and City engineers give further explanation about the utility.

If you still have questions after reviewing this information, you are welcome to contact City Hall at 868-6900 or by e-mail at info@ci.milton.wi.us.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Milling and Paving of John Paul Road, Municipal Drive, and Merchant Row

The City is initiating some milling and overlay roadwork during the next few days. Milling is a process where top layer of asphalt pavement is ground up and removed. Then, a “binder” is added to the left-over road surface (which is acts like glue) and a new layer of asphalt is added on top of the binder. This process is important in extending the useful life of the subsurface of the road structure. For those who might be interested, here’s a YouTube video that demonstrates the mill and overlay process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy1tWWHvV-w.

Milling will take place on John Paul Road, Municipal Drive, and Merchant Row on Wednesday and Thursday of this week (October 7th and 8th). There will be temporary traffic delays.

Paving is expected to occur, weather permitting, on Monday and Tuesday next week (October 12th and 13th). Temporary road closing will occur during the paving process.

Thanks to everyone for your patience and attentive driving in and around these project areas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Siren Test Tomorrow

Tomorrow the outdoor tornado sirens will be tested at 12:05 p.m. with a steady tone of 1-2 minutes. This will be the last siren test for the season.

The steady tone of 3-5 minutes will be the take cover signal that a tornado warning has been issued for Rock County and citizens should immediately take shelter and tune to your local broadcasting stations or weather radio for information.

If the siren located in your area is not working, please call 758-8440. It would be helpful if someone could be near each community siren for the first test of the year.

If there is inclement weather within the county, siren testing will not be conducted.

Milton Homecoming Parade

The Milton Homecoming parade is this Friday, October 9, 2009. Bands and floats will be meeting at the parking lot at the Milton Community House. The route will travel as follows:
  • South on Parkview to High Street
  • Right on High Street, West up to Hilltop Drive
  • Right on Hilltop Drive to High School Parking Lot or Municipal Drive (Construction Dependent)
  • Parade Ends at High School Parking lot

In order to accommodate the parade, High Street will be temporarily closed from approximately 1:55 – 3:00 p.m.

7th Annual Prairie Seed Hike

On Saturday, October 10th, beginning at 9:00 a.m., the Ad-Hoc Crossridge Park Committee will be hosting their 7th Annual Prairie Seed Hike. The event will begin at Rotary Gardens in Janesville and continue to Milton to pick seeds from the established native prairies located at the high school and Crossridge Park.

This year, the Department of Public Works and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation asked the Committee to plant a 6-7 acre area along the new State Highway 59 construction on Milton's east side. The area will be planted at the end of the project by the MECCA students as a class project. The Committee has about 3 acres of seed ready to plant from last year, but they need your help!

More information, as well as pictures of the already established prairies containing wild grasses and flowers native to this area in full bloom, can be found at:http://crossridgepark.blogspot.com/ or http://miltondogpark.blogspot.com/. Please also check these links for alternate plans if there is inclement weather.

Come join us! Bring your kids and make it a hands-on learning family activity.