Looking on the Bright Side

Eyes in the Sky

Taking the unexpected plunge through thin ice out on supposedly frozen over Lake Geneva? Certain private citizens loyal to the Geneva Shore Report own and operate drones. The Lake Geneva Fire Department does not have one, and neither does any other public safety department around Geneva Lake. The new state law in Wisconsin makes municipal ownership or even corporate ownership of a drone complexly difficult. It seems that a public safety agency in Wisconsin needs a warrant in order to operate a drone, unless certain emergency circumstances exist and the law is not very clear about what those are.

Private ownership and operating of a drone has a much less strict interpretation. As long as a person registers the drone and then does not fly it so as to violate the “reasonable expectation of privacy” of another person, drone flying along with video and audio recording is entirely permitted. Last Sunday it was rumored that a person had gone through the ice out on Lake Geneva but nobody knew where or even if it happened. The police and fire departments, along with the county sheriff showed up at BigFoot and remained for hours, searching in vain for some sign of someone out on the lake ice in distress. The operation of a drone would have made quick work of a search up and down the center of the lake at an altitude of choice with real time video back at the emergency vehicles coming right up on screen.

In the future, since the Geneva Shore Report wants news stories and the safety personnel around the lake want to save people’s lives the GSR has offered its drone services to any agency that feels it needs it to help someone out. The only cost is the story, if there happens to be one. There was nobody out there who’d fallen through the lake on Sunday but it would have been fun to launch a Phantom III and take a look around and make sure. It would be more than tragic to have someone fall through the ice out in the middle of Lake Geneva and then have no one even know they were in trouble until it was too late.

Thin Ice Lake Geneva Thin Ice lake Geneva

That infernal Tax Increment District that plagues Lake Geneva.

Preforming a brief review of Lake Geneva’s Tax Increment District No. 4 (TID#4) reveals that since TID#4 was created in 1995, the City of Lake Geneva has collected over $33.7 million dollars in TIF#4 taxes from local area residents which is $8.6 million dollars more than was needed to complete all projects, including the ones added this week. By law TID#4 should have been closed years ago when it had collected enough money to complete all the approved TIF Projects, but the city just ignored that law and kept TID#4 open collecting 1.5 to 2 million dollars every year.

That is how the huge $8.6 million dollars surplus was created. Furthermore, the public purposes state law requires a specific stated purpose for collecting taxes. The law does not permit taxes to be collected without a specified use, which the City of Lake Geneva has ignored with its spending of TIF#4 taxes and continues today with Resolution 16-R2 to spend $3,000,000 of TID#4 taxes on additional new projects not approved in the TIF Board amendment #3 to TID#4, like the $650,000 to widen and replace the lights on Main Street between Wells and Curtis or $800,000 set aside for the theater improvement.

If the city council does not close the TIF District by May 15, the city will collect another $1.6 million in TIF#4 taxes next year. The city does not have to close the TID#4 in 2017 as has been indicated, but after 2017, by law, the city can’t spend any more TIF#4 money unless it wants to ignore the TIF law, as it has ignored the other aforementioned laws. It could keep TIF#4 open and continue to collect money until 2023 when it must be closed. However, there is a new city manager on the job, so there’s finally some hope that TIF#4 taxes that the unknowing public has been paying for over the last 20 years may finally be coming to an end.

However, until a resolution is written to close Tax Increment District No. 4, and until it is put on a city council agenda and voted on and approved by the City Council that will not happen. Until such an act takes place TID#4 tax will continue to be added to every local property tax bill until 2023. When TID#4 actually ends (that year, or whenever), it will take some financial adjusting for the city to get used to because Lake Geneva’s gotten used to spending an extra million dollars of TID#4 spending every year that will no longer be available.

What will supplement the following normal city expenses that TID#4 was used for:

  • The repair the Riviera and its grounds, museum improvement,
  • Lake front improvements,
  • Library Park,
  • Dunn Field parking and bathrooms,
  • Tree planting, park building up grades,
  • Traffic signals,
  • Parking meters,
  • Lighting improvement,
  • Edwards Blvd Extension,
  • The beach and boat facility improvements,
  • The repair of the downtown streets and alleys,
  • To purchase street department equipment and so on.

The city may have to simply face up to reality and inform the public about what it wants to do on its behalf and then ask for the money through taxation.

The way it’s really supposed to work anyway.

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But before you do…

A Bright Spot in Lake Geneva

Geneva Java Lake geneva

The Geneva Java, finally restocked with Lion Kona Coffee. The run over the holidays was tough and supplies ran low. The place is warm and hunkered down for a strange winter, with instant new friends only a table away 252 Center Street, downtown Lake Geneva.

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