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New Berlin again rethinks delayed Ryerson Road project

Dec. 3, 2012

New Berlin - New Berlin Industrial Park businesses that have waited years for Ryerson Road to be rebuilt may have to wait somewhat longer.

The Common Council last week again bumped the massive $4 million reconstruction project from next year to 2015 - which would amount to a seven-year delay from when it was originally planned to begin.

For Mayor Jack Chiovatero, who strongly defended keeping the project in the 2013 roads budget, businesses have already waited too long.

Mayoral concerns

Chiovatero noted that some businesses have to ask for smaller trucks to bring deliveries because big trucks have trouble getting into driveways from Ryerson. Other businesses have stormwater problems that will be fixed when the road is redone, he said.

"This is not wise," he said, speaking with aldermen at the Nov. 27 meeting, of the delay. "A lot of tax base is sitting on Ryerson Road."

After the meeting, Chiovatero acknowledged he's worried that some businesses might even move out.

"We really need to take care of our industrial park," he said.

In addition he said, by delaying, the city will lose a $179,000 state grant.

"That's a lot of money," Chiovatero said.

A matter of finances

On the other side is the majority of the Common Council that agrees with Alderman Dave Ament, chairman of the Board of Public Works, who said the city simply can't afford Ryerson at this time.

The project is so huge that it would blow the roads budget for next year. That's partly because two other projects that are already under way need more funding, Ament said.

He agreed Ryerson needs to be done, but the city needs to bite the bullet if taxpayers are to be spared a tax spike.

As it is, a wave of higher debt payments tied to city projects and expenses approved some years ago started hitting taxpayers this year and will slam into them to the tune of $644,895 more next year, Ament said.

Even though the mayor brought in a zero increase operating budget for 2013, the levy was headed for a 2.6 percent increase - later reduced to 0.93 percent - because of those higher debt payments, he noted.

The city can't afford to borrow more than $5.5 million for roads per year, if it is to remain on some kind of even keel until the debt payments start to fall off again, probably in 2015 at the latest, Ament said.

Keeping Ryerson in the 2013 roads budget would have swelled it to $8.2 million.

Hoping for future savings

Putting the Ryerson work off to 2015 would result in a $7.2 million total for that year - still far above the $5.5 million target.

But Ament said the city might save money on projects prior to that point, leaving more resources to be put toward Ryerson. Or something else might happen to make the Ryerson project feasible in 2014, he said.

Losing the grant is bad, Ament agreed, but said the city can reapply.

The city might experience some small savings on projects in 2013 and 2014, but during the two-year delay, the $4 million Ryerson Road project will probably shoot up to $5 million, Chiovatero said.

Construction companies are hungry for work now, so bids are lower than normal, but they won't be hungry in 2015 when Zoo Interchange construction is under way, the mayor said. He estimated a 10 percent increase in construction bids once the massive Zoo Interchange work starts.

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