Council mulls parking agreement with campus


John Leahey

Whitewater Common Council hosts a public meeting on Tuesday, September 20.

John Leahey, Journalist

The Whitewater Common Council hosted a public meeting to discuss campus street parking and other topics and events at the City of Whitewater Municipal Building last Tuesday.

Toward the end of the meeting, the council members began to discuss amending an agreement made between UW-Whitewater and the city of Whitewater regarding parking on Prairie and Prince Streets adjacent to the university campus.

The agreement, originally made in 2012, saw UW-Whitewater pay $76,000 to the city in order to contribute toward

Kevin Green asks council members about the status of the Whitewater Lake drainage project. (John Leahey)

North Prince Street’s reconstruction at the time. The university also requested that the city bury the overhead utility wiring on the street, bringing the total cost of the deal to an estimated $533,950.  To help offset this cost, UW-Whitewater implemented a parking fee system and agreed to pay the cost back in five years.  However, the plan eventually changed to yearly payments of $40,000 to the city, and then was raised to $45,000 a year in 2017.

The agreement ended August 31 of this year, and during the meeting, the council brought forward a motion to amend it by extending the deal for two years and maintaining the payment amount of $45,000. In those two years, the council intends to negotiate a new deal with the university.

A majority of the council supported this motion aside from one member, Council Member James D. Allen. Allen voiced concerns about keeping the payments the same as the previous five-year period of the agreement.

“I’d just like to comment that I think it’s wrong to be taking city streets, which taxpayers pay for, and allowing the university to control them for parking and revenue,” said Allen. “It might be easier to look away when the revenue is pretty decent,” he continued, “You could argue that it’s for the betterment of the community. But, it’s been too long since the fee has gone up, and the parking fees at the university have gone way up. So should ours.”

Aldermanic Jill Gerber responded, citing she too was concerned about raising the yearly payments to the city. However, she noted that she felt more comfortable with the shorter, two-year plan, as opposed to the previous five-year deal.

“This [agreement] was written for only two years, and the prior ones were written for five years,” said Gerber. “We’re taking the burden of the cost to repair the roads. There’s no burden on [the university]; there’s no extra staffing, as they have lots anyway…they’re struggling as well as everybody else, so I think two years was why I was good with [the agreement],” she told Allen. The motion passed soon after, with the only vote against it coming from Allen.

Parking news aside, Interim City Manager John Weidl announced a number of upcoming events in Whitewater: An LGBTQ+ rally will be held at Cravath Lakefront Park on October 1 from noon to 2 p.m. A general list of activities includes music, performances, vendors, and kids’ activities. Walworth County Public Works will be hosting Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Clean Sweep and Electronic Recycling events on October 7 and 8. October 7 will be limited to HHW collection from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and October 8 will be open to both HHW and electronic collection from 8 a.m. to noon. The city of Whitewater is currently stocking Whitewater Lake with northern pike, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be reopening fishing on October 1.

To access the full September 20 meeting, click here. To contact the Whitewater Common Council, email [email protected].