The Minocqua Town Board, meeting in special session Tuesday morning, scheduled a special meeting of town electors for Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.
What town residents will be asked to vote on is the purchase by the town for $150,000 plus closing costs of a house and property at 408 East Chicago Avenue.
The home, formerly owned by Andy Organiscak, who passed away in September 2018, is one of the final three privately owned lots on the block that also has a municipal parking lot, town hall/community center and police station.
The police station is next door to the east of the Organiscak property.
The purpose of Tuesday’s special meeting was to decide whether or not to proceed with a meeting of the electors and town chairman Mark Hartzheim began with a summation of where things are to this point.
“We’ve really operated under the understanding since 2002 that the town board has received the authorization from the electorate to purchase property on this block with the idea of this being a municipal or government service block,” he said. “One of the reasons was one of the last times we purchased property here it was felt the town could act more quickly to do that if they had that authorization. It’s not an authorization for the whole island — just this block.”
Hartzheim’s comments were a reference to a meeting of the electors the town conducted on Jan. 22, 2002, which ultimately resulted in construction of the current police station.
2002 meeting of the electors
One of the houses involved in that approved purchase ended up getting moved to Flambeau Street across from the Campanile Center and is now the home of the Minocqua Museum.
“When the board directed me to work on an offer with the owners of this (Organiscak) property, the first thing I wanted to see was the motion from 2002 that we were relying on to make this offer,” Hartzheim said.
Town clerk Roben Haggart found the motion.
“It wasn’t real clear in the motion that was a continuing resolution even though we believe pretty much that it was, we feel we owe it to the public to go through the process and make sure they’re aware and not just assume we have that authorization and people find fault with how we did this,” Hartzheim said.
He said the town’s attorney, Greg Harrold, advised when there’s a continuing authorization, state statutes say that authority has got to be clear.
“That it is giving a continuing authority to do this and that motion (from 2002) didn’t really do that,” Hartzheim said.
The motion from the 2002 electors meeting to grant the town board authorization “to purchase land on block five of the plat of Minocqua ” was made by town board member Vern Handrick and seconded by John Houlihan.
“The vote was 131 to 1,” Hartzheim said. “So, the public was very much in favor of it and I’m sure at that meeting, because I was there, it was meant to be a continuing authorization. The motion just isn’t really worded that way. So, let’s do right by the public.”
“And you’re sure?” town supervisor John Thompson asked. “You listened to it?”
“We don’t have any tape of it,” Hartzheim said.
Town supervisor Sue Heil asked about other privately owned property elsewhere on the block.
On the other side of the block, on Milwaukee Street, there are two pieces of property owned by Renn Goltra.
“Who knows, a generation from now, we don’t know how they will want to configure this building,” Hartzheim said, referring to the town hall/community center structure. “I mean, it would open up this whole lot for things to be done in the future.”
Regarding the 2002 motion, Hartzheim said those involved at the time, including Houlihan and Don Gauger, who was town chairman at the time, would say a continuing authorization was the intent.
“The way the motion’s worded, it doesn’t specify that,” he said.
“Well, there’s no downside to doing it this way,” town supervisor Bill Stengl said.
“I think this is the better thing to do because 2002 is a long time ago,” she said.
Hartzheim said the offer the town has made for the Organiscak property included a provision everything is contingent upon approval by town residents at a meeting of the electors.
Town supervisor Billy Fried asked assessor Kitt Koski what he thought about the town’s offer.
“Our new assessment ratio is 88% would be on our tax bill,” he said. “That would bring it up to $159,000. Looking at the sales that have happened on the island here it does seem like a good buy. Seems like it makes sense, with the parking lot and seeing how many spaces you can get out of it.”
Should the town be given approval to purchase the property at the Nov. 19 meeting, what exactly becomes of the property is a matter for future discussion, although Thompson mentioned the possibility of green space.
“For the foreseeable future,” he said. “I’m not saying you have to irrigate it.”
That and additional parking were possibilities briefly discussed, Hartzheim noting a couple times parking downtown is at a premium.
Whatever is ultimately done with the land, whether it was decided to raze the house and garage or have the current house and garage moved offsite, Hartzheim stressed the point was to acquire the property because there “will never be another opportunity to acquire it but don’t necessarily sink a bunch of developmental costs into it right now.”
If the purchase is authorized, funding would come through a loan and not from the general fund of the town budget.
The electors meeting on Nov. 19 is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. in the third floor board room of the Minocqua town hall/community center followed immediately by a regular meeting of the town board.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]