TOWN OF OAKLAND RESPONSE TO RECENT NEWS PAPER ARTICLES
The Town of Oakland wants to clarify the issue of the Intergovernmental Agreement between the Town of Oakland and the Village of Cambridge. First, we should remember that the Town of Oakland has approximately 3400 residents, twice the size of the Village of Cambridge. We have two distinct communities, one which is surrounding Lake Ripley and consists of permanent and seasonal residents numbering about the same population as Cambridge. We also have a larger portion that is dedicated to agriculture, again with a population slightly larger than the Village. The Town of Oakland provides 50% of the funding for the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Company and the Cambridge EMS service and is a member of the Fire Commission which funds and governs these two agencies. (The Town also pays the Fort Atkinson Fire Department and the Jefferson Fire Department to cover large portions of the agricultural part of the Town.) The Town is governed by an elected chair and four elected Supervisors, assisted by a Clerk/Treasurer, a deputy Clerk/Treasurer, and public works employees. The Town has a Police Chief and part-time police department and during the summer routinely provides water patrol on Lake Ripley.
The agreement deals with much more than the question regarding three streets. The issue of the streets takes up two and a half pages of an eleven page agreement. Most of the agreement lays out a Joint Planning Committee and Joint Planning process between the Town and the Village. This is an important agreement which lays out a very important co-operative process between the parties. This should not be lightly dismissed nor should it be ignored in the current situation.
As to the streets in question there is an important point to understand. When the agreement was written, both parties functioned with an understanding that the Village would pursue annexation of the streets. However, there was a question if the State would permit annexation while there were still Town residences on the street, creating what are known as “islands”. Recent information has indicated that it should be possible for the Village to annex these streets even while there remain Town residences on the streets. It is fair to say that the Town is willing to work with the Village to allow the Village to annex the streets.
It is important for people to know the language of the agreement in regards to what is specified in the agreement. Section 1 of the agreement is titled: DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN ROADS AS VILLAGE ROADS. This is a pretty clear statement of the intent of the parties entering the agreement.
Sections 1.1.2, 1.2.2, and 1.3.2 reads as follow: “The Village and the Town agree that all of (Street Name) shall be treated as a Village road, and that both the Village and Town shall take any and all permissible actions to establish (Street Name) as a Village Road.”
Again returning to the exact language of the agreement in Section 1.1.3, 1.2.3 and 1.3.3 we read. “From the effective date of this Agreement forward, the Village shall maintain and serve all of (Street Name) in the same manner as all other Village roads…” The Village and its representatives are asking the Town to believe that all the Village does to its other roads is plow snow and patch potholes. To the Town’s thinking this representation by the Village is not a realistic depiction of the facts.
As noted in the News Article of July 17, the Town sought a legal review of the agreement from the attorney who put together the Intergovernmental Agreement for the Fire Commission, which both the Town and the Village have signed. The attorney points out that: “the Village is obligated to maintain the streets as it does all of its other streets.” The Town believes this to be a proper reading of the language and the intent of the parties in the agreement.
The Village on the other hand is relying on a road engineer to define a legal agreement. The Town is skeptical of this interpretation as the engineering firm would stand to make much more money on an $850,000 redo rather than a lesser cost option. It should be noted that the current water infrastructure and sanitary sewer do not necessarily need replacement. The Town notes that projects done in the Town have shown the sanitary sewer lines to be in satisfactory condition. One final comment in this area is that the sanitary sewer system was a joint project of the Village and the Town, while billing is separate to each unit of government.
Clearly the Town believes the language of the agreement to be clear and that has been backed up by a review of an attorney familiar with this type of agreement. We are willing to work with the Village regarding allowing them to annex the streets. And we believe that the agreement is an important agreement especially in terms of the Joint Planning process which is the majority of the agreement.
We hope this clarifies for all the issues contained and that in our opinion there is no need for mediation, eliminating the agreement or disruption in the working relationship between the Town of Oakland and the Village of Cambridge.
The Oakland Town Board
Addendum to the Response: (July 24, 2019)
The Daily Union in printing the Town Board’s letter to the editor changed wording that the town wrote. The Newspapers introduced the issue of annexation of residences to the Village. The Town Board did not write this and would reference the wording of the agreement and recent statements by the Town board that: “ Neither the Village nor the Town wishes to “force” any Town residents to annex to the Village.” (Section 1. of the Intergovernmental Agreement)