Portage considers tax for new city trails

Mayor proposes $4 million plan for 65 miles of bike and walking trails
Portage considers tax for new city trails

The proposal in the city of Portage would create new bike and walking paths throughout the community, looping around the city.

Portage Mayor Bill Tierney has the plan all mapped out for how he’s going to increase the health and wellness of his community.

“This is for the benefit of the citizens, be it Portage citizens or citizens wherever,” Tierney said.  “Get out and use your feet and enjoy the outdoors.”

Tierney proposed a $4 million plan for 65 miles of paths and trails across Portage connecting areas like the Wisconsin River Levee Trail to the historic Portage canals and beyond.  Because of state revenue limits, he’s getting creative with funding.

“I have proposed a trail tax district,” Tierney said.  “One that without question will be fought with some opposition, but I’m willing to take on the fight because I believe in it.”

That tax could cost a homeowner with a $150,000 home about $132 a year.  City Administrator Shawn Murphy says it’s going to be a hard sell.

“I don’t think anyone is ready for a new tax,” Murphy said.  “So that will be a part of the challenge, if that’s the direction of the mayor and the council want to go, is to provide enough education to make people aware of what it’s being used for and the benefits they’ll get out of it.”

At her bead shop in downtown Portage, Rita Briant hopes the plan could bring more people down a path to her business.

“I just think it’s a fabulous idea,” Briant said.  “Portage is very historic, and people don’t take advantage of it.”

Homeowner Kelly Behnke says she and her family would definitely use the trails but says the whole county should be on the hook.

“I already pay high taxes in the city of Portage compared to the surrounding townships, and I don’t think its fair that Portage foots the whole bill,” Behnke said.

The City Council still needs to approve the project.  It’s not clear when that could happen.