Voting for the primary elections for the Richfield Village Board are scheduled for Tuesday, and there are seven candidates vying for four slots on the April general election ballot.
Incumbents Bill Collins and Dan Neu are defending their seats against challengers Gil Frank, Russ Zold, Nick Hansen, Bill Meyers and Greg Krznarich. The five challengers are running on much the same issue — they believe the Village Board is ignoring the wants of its constituents, especially as it concerns installing sewer and water in the village.
Frank ran for a board seat in 2012 but was defeated by Neu and Collins. Frank, now retired, is a former fire chief of the Bark Lake Fire Department.
Chief among the five challengers’ complaints is the village’s public works ordinance, passed in July 2012. The ordinance mandates that, should any Village Board, present or future, wish to install sewer and water in Richfield west of the Highway 175 corridor, the action must first pass a referendum. The ordinance does not require a referendum for areas east of Highway 175. It also stipulates that any capital improvement project, no matter its location, costing more than one-third of one percent of the village’s equalized value, which comes out to about $4.8 million, would require a referendum.
That’s not enough, candidates said. “I would like to see the referendum cover all the village and have a lower number for the threshold,” said Krznarich.
“The one we have now is fairly significant, in excess of four million.” Krznarich and his wife moved to Richfield from Milwaukee two years ago.
“I want any major capital projects that raise resident taxes (to) go to a village referendum for consideration and approval,” echoed Zold. Zold works in sales and has lived in Richfield for 13 years.
The five challengers also said that they want to keep Richfield’s taxes low. The village has the lowest tax rate of any village in Wisconsin, but Hansen is worried that the board may try to raise taxes to pay for road maintenance.
“We’ve got a rather large reserve fund,” Hansen said. “If they would use some of that reserve fund to pay for the roads, they wouldn’t have to raise taxes.”
Bill Meyers, a former county supervisor who lost his re-election bid in 2012, voiced the same concerns as others but added he was concerned that the Village Board is forgetting its motto, “A country way of life.”
“Change the culture from bigger government/higher taxes to a smaller government/lower taxes,” he said when asked what he would like to change on the board. “I fought for taxpayers and against wasting our money when I was a County Board supervisor where the same ‘growth for growth’s sake’ philosophy prevails.”
The incumbents aren’t impressed with the arguments, especially that sewer and water installation is imminent.
“I don’t know how many times we can tell them that it’s not,” Collins said.
He is re-running to continue the fiscally conservative principles he said he has brought to the board, and added that he’d like to find a way to entice a business to move into a parcel of land between Highways 175 and 41/45.
“We need to find a way to bring business to the village of Richfield. They’re the ones paying the taxes,” Collins said. “Otherwise, it falls on the homeowners.”
Trustee Dan Neu added that he is looking ahead to issues facing the village in the coming years.
“Probably the biggest thing is to continue with the roads,” he said. “I think the best way to solve those issues is to encourage economic development — controlled growth.”