Hold referendum, Oakland

Editor, Daily Union: The villages of Cambridge and Rockdale and towns of Oakland, Christiana and Lake Mills share EMS and fire services and costs for their jurisdictions. The current building was built in Cambridge in the 1960s. A commission was established to study the need for updating or building a new facility to address safety and space considerations, and hired Keller Inc. as contractor.

The current proposal is for a $6.5 million project that includes expanding to build on land purchased by the Town of Christiana, adjacent to the current station and still operating as Pizza Pit (f/k/a Curve Cafe). The plan calls for adding eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms, two kitchens, a large meeting/training room, and exercise room, along with more bays and garage/equipment storage. Each jurisdiction would be responsible for a proportionate share of the initial cost, as well as the ongoing additional costs of maintaining the facility, still unknown.

The project is at a very important decision point at this time. The various boards will have to decide whether to put the $6.5 million project to referendums in their jurisdiction. The Village of Cambridge has already decided that the cost is too great to not have a referendum to determine the opinion of the taxpayers who will be responsible for footing the initial and ongoing costs. The Town of Oakland board, however, is strongly urging bypassing the referendum and the board is prepared to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 17, to go forward with the project without a referendum.

The Town of Oakland’s share of the $6.5 million project would be about $3.185 million. There are 1,236 households in the Town of Oakland, according to Google. The division of the $3.185 million will be based on property valuation that has not yet been calculated. If the voters in the Village of Cambridge vote “no” to their referendum, and the village board determines that it will abide by the will of the people, and the Town of Oakland board has committed to the project without a referendum, the Village of Cambridge’s share would be added onto the cost.

All of the jurisdictions involved entered into a written contract dated March 21, 2019, that states, in relevant part: “The agreement was to assist in making long-range plans for the expansion of the fire and EMS station onto land that currently is known as the Pizza Pit land ... However, in order to pay for each municipality's share of the acquisition cost of 271 W. Main St., Cambridge, WI 53523, and to construct a new fire station on said parcel, each municipality will need to pass a referendum approving such action. In the event the referendum of any municipality shall fail, then this agreement shall be null and void.”

I would urge all residents of the Town of Oakland to attend the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Oakland Town Hall, or call a board member, and demand a referendum on this project be included with the April ballot electing Oakland officials. Let the citizens engage in the democratic process and let their voices be heard, and abide by an agreement signed by all in good faith.

There has been overall support for remodeling and some needed expansion addressing safety concerns and using common sense to solve space and other problems, but many believe this plan includes much more than what is needed now or in the foreseeable future and other alternatives need to be explored. A second referendum question might address whether citizens favor looking at alternative plans to address these needs. — Respectfully, Virginia Newcomb, Town of Oakland.

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