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Potential county rep on La Crosse Center Board receives pushback from Mayor Kabat

Potential county rep on La Crosse Center Board receives pushback from Mayor Kabat

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The possibility of a County Board seat being added to the La Crosse Center Board is getting mixed reviews from City Hall.

At a Judiciary and Administration Committee meeting Thursday night, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat spoke out before the vote, urging the committee to deny the request. He asked that the city take more time to map out its potential new relationship with La Crosse County or adopt an amendment that laid out funding standards for the partnership.

Kabat submitted an amendment to the proposal early Thursday, asking that La Crosse County account for 10% of the La Crosse Center budget as a condition for the seat. He said that he wants to make sure long-term sustainability and clear governance are part of adding the county seat to the board.

Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

“I really think that this is a much larger discussion,” Kabat said.

At Thursday’s meeting, Committee Chair Andrea Richmond emphasized that the county’s added seat was honorary and would not have voting powers. But on Friday she clarified that the 10th member of the board would actually have full voting powers. She said she still thinks adding the seat without securing funds from La Crosse County is the best move.

“This is all about good faith, building relationships,” Richmond said. “We want to start 2020 out on the right path.”

The city began looking to add a county representative to the board after both the city of Onalaska and La Crosse County issued complaints that their past contributions to the La Crosse Center project be met with counsel rights, according to Kabat.

Originally, the city of La Crosse asked the county for $60,000 toward the project, that would be paid back in sales tax, but Kabat said the request was not answered. La Crosse County instead gave a one-time amount of $150,000 to the event center’s remodeling project. Kabat wants to ensure there is consistent funding to support the regional space.

“The complaints,” Kabat said, “raised much larger questions versus a quick fix to add a county board seat to the La Crosse Center Board.”

Kabat told the committee that the city should take more time to research the best relationship to forge, saying his office was looking to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and the Brewers and Bucks sporting venues as models to shared governance spaces.

“If we can scale it back to something that’s applicable to La Crosse, there’s maybe some things we can learn,” Kabat said. “Because ultimately I think that everyone wants the same thing. We want to see the La Crosse Center flourish.”

The proposal to add a La Crosse County representative to the Center’s board will go to the City Council on Jan. 9, where a final decision will be made.

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