After hearing from a Decorah citizen concerned about city spending, the Decorah City Council approved two divisions of a bid on extending utility services to the Decorah Business Park on the east edge of Decorah.

Skyline Construction of Decorah was the low bidder at $2,874,119 for Divisions 1 and Division 3 for the sanitary sewer and water main improvements along Highway 9. The Council tabled action on Division 2 to allow for further discussion.

Skyline’s bid for Division 2, which would pay for a road should the city decide to pursue the development of low-income housing in conjunction with the project, is $79,814. Also bidding on the work were JB Holland Construction, Decorah, $3,446,593 for all three divisions; and A-1 Excavating of Bloomer, Wis., $3,206,715. Skyline’s bid for all three divisions is $2,953,933. 

During a public hearing on the sewer and water main improvements, Daniel Baldwin of Decorah expressed his concern about the rate of growth in the city’s spending.

“Please bear in mind that population growth in Decorah is flat or negative.  Since 2008, inflation has remained at historic lows; local payrolls, average family income and property values have remained mostly stagnant. Since fiscal 2008, spending by the city of Decorah has increased by an eye-popping 56 percent,” Baldwin said, reading from a prepared statement.

Baldwin said the Decorah School District is currently addressing its elementary school needs.

“Surely members of Council know that it won’t be long (weeks, perhaps months) before the Decorah School Board puts forward a plan to address the inadequacies of our elementary school buildings, John Cline and West Side. The School Board plan is likely to involve new construction, and costs are likely to run into several millions of dollars,” he said.

“I realize that school budgets and municipal budgets are different budgets. Different budgets, yes, but the same small group of taxpayers—small business owners and property owners and homeowners—the same relatively small group of taxpayers will pick up the tab for every new initiative. As a community, we must set priorities, we decide what matters most and we put first things first.  This is not the time for a $4.7 million sewer project, the economic value of which is questionable at best. Surely the immediate physical needs of our community schools must take precedence over a $4.7 million sewer line.”

The Decorah City Council recently approved bonding for up to $4.7 million to pay for the utility extensions to the Decorah Business Park and to refinance a previous debt.

Council member Tade Kerndt said the project has been in the works for 13 years – it’s not something that has just recently been considered.

Council member Chuck Lore agreed and said he hoped the Decorah Business Park “is the future of Decorah.”