The city of La Crosse will not be joining the metropolitan sewerage district proposed by Onalaska and La Crescent after the Common Council Thursday unanimously approved a resolution opposing the city’s inclusion.
The council also approved sustainability goals that call for the city transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and a resolution regulating curbside pick-up of alcohol.
La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat proposed the resolution to oppose the metropolitan sewerage district, saying the city has managed the regional system efficiently and cost-effectively over the decades, keeping rates low, and it didn’t make sense to turn over the infrastructure — which Kabat said is valued at more than $400 million — to a third party.
“We have a very valuable system. We have made very good choices when it comes to management of that system. Our report cards for water quality and sustainability have always been very high from the DNR, and our rates are among the lowest in the state,” Kabat said. “We already provide a regional service.”
Kabat described the efforts to create the district as a “way to usurp La Crosse’s management and control of operation of the plant.”
Council president Martin Gaul asked his fellow council members to support Kabat’s resolution, agreeing that it wasn’t in the city’s best interest.
“I think it’s time for us to kind of get ahead of this if we can and make our intentions clear that it is not to the benefit of the city of La Crosse to entertain going into a metropolitan sewerage district,” Gaul said.
The district was proposed by Onalaska and La Crescent, with proponents saying it would create an equitable, cooperative system by allowing each municipality to have a representative on a five-member district commission to decide on the future of the facility. If the city of La Crosse joined, it would also be required to turn over the plant, built in 1936 and expanded by the city in 1958 and 1972, to the district.
Without La Crosse, the members of the district would negotiate as a group for sewage services.
The council committed Thursday to an incremental drawdown of carbon usage with targets of going down 5% by 2020, 20% by 2025, 30% by 2030, 45% by 2035, 60% by 2040, 80% by 2045 and 100% by 2050, to be completely carbon neutral. It will use the 2015 greenhouse gas levels as a baseline.
Council members Jessica Olson and Larry Sleznikow thanked the developers of the resolution, with Olson saying it was important to have specific goals that tie directly into city business.
Sleznikow added, “I think this is a very important part that the city is taking, addressing climate change and the affects that it will have on many aspects of the city.”
To reach that goal, the council will ask all purchasing decisions that come to them for approval to include an analysis of how it impacts the sustainability goals, as well as a cost benefit analysis.
The city council also approved the purchase of two electric buses, and has previously supported green efforts such as adding solar panels to the roof of the La Crosse Center and updating lighting and heating and cooling systems to be more energy efficient.
The council unanimously approved an ordinance to regulate online ordering and curbside pickup of alcoholic beverages, which would put strict rules in place should businesses expand their liquor, wine and beer sales to outside their doors.
The rules would apply to places like Walmart and Festival Foods, which offer customers the chance to order groceries online, then pay and pick them up at a set-aside area of their parking lots.
Because liquor licenses are tied to the building, not the grounds, adding curbside sales would require amending any current license — something that would require council approval. To get that approval under the proposed new ordinance, the establishment would need to file a request with a detailed operation plan and pay a fee.
The ordinance limits the times alcohol may be ordered to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and requires a minimum four-hour waiting period between the time the alcohol is ordered and the time it is picked up, which would mean any alcohol ordered after 2 p.m. wouldn’t be able to be picked up until the next day.