By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — State legislators took a trip to Wisconsin Rapids on Wednesday to meet with city leaders on various community topics.
As part of a day-long trip through the area, state area legislators met first in the Brehm Conference Room at the Centralia Center to discuss a wide range of local topics, and how state decisions can affect the community. Attending the meeting were Rep. Don Vruwink, Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), Assembly Assistant Democratic Leader Diane Hesselbein (D-Middleton), Democratic State Assembly member Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), Milwaukee Democratic Legislator Jonathan Brostoff, and Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).
Many topics were combed over at the roundtable discussion, from the stability of local industry, economic concerns, the emphasis on more drug treatment options in the area, and property tax reform. Also discussed was the concern over Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cutbacks, which has led to a slowed permit process for some city utility projects around the state, including Wisconsin Rapids.
“I believe that it’s paramount that our elected representatives, irregardless of party, are listening to local officials,” said Mayor Zach Vruwink. “There’s a lot of fast moving activity in Madison, and often times the downside of fast moving activity is that there’s not a good opportunity for local officials to assess the impact.”
Vruwink cited multiple concerns, from cutbacks in the DNR which lead to the halt of the Second Ave. project, to the potential repeal of the personal property tax that is gaining momentum in state legislation that would hinder the city’s ability to provide basic police and fire protection, among other city utilities.
“We don’t want central Wisconsin to be a forgotten area,” said Vruwink. “By having a discussion with folks who don’t represent this area, it helps us inform them, and round their opinion of needs and challenges that are facing our area — whether it’s job creation to finding a talented and skilled workforce.”
The group traveled from the Centralia Center, to Alexander Field to discuss small business, finance and workforce concerns, and to areas of Milladore and Rudolph to close out the day.