The Fort Atkinson City Council on Tuesday accepted bids for issuing $5.5 million in general obligation bonds to finance renovating and expanding the West Milwaukee Avenue fire station.

Baird Vice President Justin Fischer told the council when it met in regular session that the investment bank received two matching bids on the bonds from local banks.

PremierBank and Badger Bank both offered an interest rate of 1.98 percent, so the two financial institutions will split the $5.5 million down the middle, with each buying $2.75 million worth of bonds from the city.

Fischer had estimated the interest rate would be 2.85 percent. He said the lower-than-expected rate means the city will spend around $12,000 less interest than anticipated.

Through the years, general maintenance and upkeep of the city’s 41-year-old fire station — roof repair, replacement of garage doors, remodeling of bathrooms and the kitchen, and replacing the station’s antiquated generator — were moved into 2020 with the intention of completing a renovation as one big project.

The renovated facility’s 20,210 square feet will be nearly twice the size of the existing building’s 11,000 square feet. The anticipated start time is March 1, 2020, and construction is expected to take around 15 months for a grand opening in fall of 2021.

Meanwhile in other business, a proposal to change five spots in the public parking lot west of the U.S. Postal Service and east of South Main Street to two-hour parking from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. was moved to its second reading.

The proposal is only a temporary solution to a problem that his risen since postal workers from Cambridge were moved to the Fort Atkinson post office. The increase in postal employees has prevented customers of the nearby businesses and residents in downtown residences from parking close by.

Council member Chris Scherer suggested making the parking stalls designated as postal spots open to the public after normal business hours, but the original agreement with the federal government doesn’t offer a lot of wiggle room about the spaces.

The council also discussed a proposal to lower the speed limit on Janesville Avenue from 35 miles per hour to 25 mph from South Fourth Street to Rockwell Avenue. That proposal also was moved to a second reading.

City engineer Andy Selle said that the section of Janesville Avenue is wide open and doesn’t have any “side friction,” which makes it easy for a motorist to speed up accidentally. Even Selle admitted to having driven above the limit in that area.

“I’ve found myself in the 40-mile-per-hour range,” Selle said.

The idea of the proposal is that it might slow drivers down just enough to make the street safer for the increased number of bicyclists and pedestrians in the area.

The Glacial River Trail runs parallel to Janesville Avenue and the street also is near a park and schools.

While council members did see the need to act quickly on a public safety issue, Scherer and council member Jude Hartwick said they did not want to change a major thoroughfare without hearing from the public.“I see the urgency, but this is a big change on a major artery,” Hartwick said.

Scherer said he has received a lot of comments from residents about this stretch of street and that there is a lot of misinformation about the proposed changes. He said he wants to get public feedback so the confusion can be cleared up.

Council member Mason Becker said he understood the need to get public input, but he entertained the idea of pushing the proposal through because of the safety threat to people in the area. He pointed to the increased use on the nearby bike trails, the opening of the ice cream shop at Jones Dairy Farm and the playground at Jones Park as reasons the city should make the area safer.

Eventually, the need for public input won out and the proposal will get more discussion at the next council meeting.

In other business, the council received a report on the city’s 2018 financial statements from the accounting firm Baker Tilly and a report on the city’s debt from its investment bank, Baird.

The city’s finances are good, according to Baker Tilly partner Andrea Jansen.

“The metrics look really healthy,” Jansen said.

The city’s debt also is in a good place, according to Fischer.

“The city has done a very good job at managing debt since 2003,” Fischer said.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for July 16.

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