Will the new Franklin Common Council cave, AGAIN?

When the Franklin Common Council gets together Tuesday during its regularly scheduled meeting they will go into closed session (behind closed doors) to discuss a few critically important items.

One of them is the case now in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Franklin Community Advocates, et al. v. City of Franklin, and Strauss Brands, LLC.

From the Milwaukee Journal website, April 8, 2022:

Franklin Community Advocates is alleging the City of Franklin “sells out (its) citizens” in a new federal lawsuit.

The filing comes amid an ongoing lawsuit against the city, also filed by FCA, related to the previously proposed 153,035 square-foot meatpacking plant from Strauss Brands on Loomis Road and Monarch Drive.

Franklin’s common council in March (2022) approved a special use permit for the proposed Strauss meatpacking plant despite the company saying in February that it no longer planned to build one.

Although Strauss announced the new meatpacking facility would not be built and the company intended to sell the land, FCA is still accusing the city of misusing its authority to award public funds and subsidy to “preferred and favored private property owners,” and causing “direct economic injury to the taxpayers of the city and in particular plaintiffs who own property adjacent and near the site,” according to the lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit has been tossed out, but two other lawsuits filed by FCA are still pending.Now follow along with a ridiculous scenario even a TV soap opera writer couldn’t come up with.

New Franklin mayor John Nelson has appointed Kelly Hersh as the city’s head of the Dept. of Administration.  Hersh has no experience for the job. Even so, the Common Council unanimously approved her appointment to the position that amounts to vice mayor AFTER Alderman Mike Barber, an ally of former mayor Steve Olson made the motion to approve Hersh. The council caved.

More importantly Hersh is one of the plaintiffs in these lawsuits against the city that she’s now going to work for and receive a $124,000 salary from (in the first year, $128,000 if she stays on the following years).

As the head of DOA Hersh now has full access to tons of documents on the lawsuit against the city that she represents. AND she’s a plaintiff in the lawsuit. A blatant conflict of interest. How stupid can this be?!

Suppose the city led by the new mayor decides to just settle the lawsuit (Nelson opposed the Strauss expansion and was supportive of one of the worst aldermanic candidates in city history, Marcelino Rivera who was a founding member and former executive director of Franklin Community Advocates). Franklin taxpayers could very well be held responsible for the legal fees involved. 

Franklin taxpayers, you’ve been played. SUCKAHS!

Another agenda item Tuesday that is scheduled to go behind closed doors involves the development agreement for Tax Incremental District No. 5 (Ballpark Commons) and the developer’s shortfall in payments some have said amount to $432,000, an issue disputed by the developer, Mike Zimmermann.

Ideally Franklin’s Common Council should stand up as a checks and balances leader. However, since the new council is greener than the hillsides I saw in Ireland a few weeks ago I suspect they’ll fold like an accordion, on the Strauss lawsuit, and other issues in the future. The expectations for this group are quite low.

I’m told that the sense about the current political climate in City Hall is that it is what it is. Ho hum. Oh well. It’s just the way things are right now. So apparently we just sit at the table like lemmings and quietly comply.

Strong governance? Hell no.

So to answer the above headline question, I fear that unless the new council develops a spine, the unfortunate answer will too often be YES.

3 thoughts on “Will the new Franklin Common Council cave, AGAIN?

  1. The City of Franklin requires development agreements for all developments that involve public improvements. The details of these agreements vary by the complexity of the development and whether there’s public financing (TIF) involved or not.

    Obviously, BPC has substantial TIF expenditure UP FRONT. Approximately $27 million with another approximately $6m in interest. WE ALWAYS GET GUARANTEES SO THE TAXPAYERS AREN’T ON THE HOOK FOR BOND PAYMENTS SHOULD THE VALUES NOT APPEAR. Such is the case with BPC. We had to protect the investment of what amounts to about $33 million in infrastructure improvements and so, we have what’s called a “shortfall guarantee” should the tax revenue from the development not be enough to cover the principal and interest payments annually on the bonds. When the development was being negotiated there was also a possibility that the stadium be declared by the state as a sports entertainment district and become tax exempt. We entered into an agreement with BPC developers for a Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement (PILOT) that provided that property taxes would be paid as though it were not tax exempt. The agreement is with various Zimmerman ventures and it’s backed on a third level by personal guarantees by Mike Zimmerman himself. So… the way it works is the property taxes generated in the TIF are the first revenue source. If there’s not enough there, then the developer pays the difference. If the developer defaults on that shortfall payment, then Mike Zimmerman personally writes the check. NO ONE hopes it goes that far.

    The goal for the BPC Development by the developer and the city elected officials has always been to have a tremendously successful development (yes, I want a great development). The issue has always been the protection of the taxpayers. That’s probably what’s at issue in the closed session Tuesday evening. There has been an on-going shortfall between the revenue derived from the property taxes on the value of the property and the debt payments. That difference is calculated and owed to the city. Before I left office the city made its’ required bond payment for the infrastructure of $1,094,020.92 (principal and interest). The shortfall payments that have been made to date did not fully cover that payment and the difference was made from the general fund savings account (fund balance).


  2. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs – May 2023 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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