The referendum would ask voters to authorize an additional $3.5 million annually through 2044 to fund the center’s construction and operations.
STEVENS POINT – The future of Portage County Health Care Center is once again uncertain, with the County Commission voting 16-8 Tuesday night against placing a referendum question on the April ballot that would have asked voters to vote in 2044 An additional $3.5 million was previously allocated annually to support the growth of the Portage County Health Care Center. Funding construction and operation of the center.
The decision comes after years of concerns about the condition of the more than 90-year-old health care center.
Portage County voters previously approved $5.6 million over four years via referendum in 2018 and $90 million over 20 years in 2022 to fund operations and build a new $20 million facility. However, in early 2023, construction progress on the new center was put on hold after county staff determined that both operating and construction costs exceeded those approved by the 2022 referendum.
A county council referendum on Tuesday asked voters to authorize an additional $70 million over 20 years to complete the project.
Seven of the nine citizens who spoke during public comments were in favor of funding the facility.
During the wide-ranging discussion, several supervisors pointed to historical vote tallies in the spring election versus the fall election.
“If you really want to take this to the voters of Portage County, then I agree with what I heard tonight,” said District 19 Supervisor Scott Soik. “Then we should do that and bring it to as many voters as possible, and that will be in November.”
The issue of holding a referendum during the November election, where higher voter turnout is expected, was also discussed at a joint meeting of the county’s Administration/Operations, Finance, Healthcare Center and Space and Property committees on Jan. 8. Proposed language for the referendum was also approved by the Health Care Center Board of Directors at the meeting.
District 6 Supervisor Shaun Przybylski said: “We need to delay this vote until we get the maximum number of voters to vote… This argument does worry me because it starts to make political choices on things rather than project timelines. .” meeting on January 8. “My concern is that it’s a slippery slope for us to select voters for these issues.”
A construction consultant for the county said the project’s cost could increase by 2% to 3% in the seven months between April and the November election.
Board Chairman and District 15 Supervisor Al Haga said on Tuesday that the last time the health center referendum passed, the number of votes cast in the April 2022 election was 17,659 in November 2020, including the presidential race. The number of votes cast in the election was 40,784. was cast.
When the referendum passed in April 2018, 20,572 people voted in favor of increasing taxes to fund the centre, while 12,951 voted “no”, for a total of 33,523.
“We’re only seven months away from the presidential election, and if we can delay it until then, I think democracy is going to happen one way or another,” said District 12 Supervisor Mike Splinter . “It’s the people who have kept this health care center alive all these years, and the people can continue to do that.”
County Administrator John Pavelski said there has been no action to sell the health care center to any committee, but he is “working hard to move that forward.”
Any action on a potential future referendum will be worked out in the months leading up to November.
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Erik Pfantz covers local government and education in central Wisconsin for USA TODAY Network Wisconsin, emphasizing his background as a rural Wisconsinite. contact him: [email protected] Or connect with him on Twitter @ErikPfantz.