Officials weigh pros, cons of Bird City designation

Organizations needed to oversee requirements

Sept. 20, 2011

Fox Point - Village officials continue to hold out hope the community can be recognized for its habitat-friendly environment toward feathered species.

The Village Board last week continued to deliberate over the merits of applying to become Bird City Wisconsin - a distinction more than 20 statewide municipalities already hold. The Bayside-based organization, created nine months ago through participation with the Milwaukee Audubon Society, is designed to promote bird conservation by working with member municipalities to examine best practices for bird habitats.

Designees hold a ceremonial event that includes a plaque presentation and educational events. To qualify, a municipality needs to pay $100 annually and go through a comprehensive application process.

Staff time a concern

Trustee Beverly Bell last month had suggested the village consider applying for membership. While the annual dollar figure was not cited as a concern, Village Manager Susan Robertson said the amount of staff time to get the initiative up and running could pose a challenge, based on existing responsibilities at Village Hall. The board last month tabled the issue, directing Robertson to examine how much time would be needed to move the proposal forward.

If Fox Point were to hold a Bird City Wisconsin designation and comply with the requirements associated with membership, Robertson estimated staff time could range from $400 to $500.

Fox Point, like all municipalities across the state, will be grappling with ongoing budget constraints because of state mandates that include a 0 percent property tax levy cap in 2012.

"I am hesitant to take on any new initiatives, regardless of how worthy they are," Village President Mike West said. "I would like to see an organization come forward. It's really staff time and DPW labor that I'm concerned about."

Volunteers needed

While no local organization has formally pledged support, a number of possibilities have been floated. Among them: the Fox Point Foundation and the Fox Point Garden Club. The latter has been instrumental in the village's annual participation in the Tree City USA program, on which Bird City Wisconsin is modeled.

Robertson said the village is always grateful for volunteer-driven efforts, but ultimately she hopes any organization willing to assist in the effort would be in it for the long haul.

"We would want some consistency," she said.

Speaking at the most recent board meeting, resident and former Trustee Louise Petering said she backs the proposal.

"I'm here to say I'm willing to support the effort, not only verbally but with some of my own time," she said.

Fox Point resident Carl Schwartz serves as coordinator of Bird City Wisconsin.

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