Madison, Fitchburg leaders ask town of Madison to dissolve 6 yea - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison, Fitchburg leaders ask town of Madison to dissolve 6 years early

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Town of Madison property, Green to become Fitchburg, Red to Madison Town of Madison property, Green to become Fitchburg, Red to Madison

MADISON (WKOW) -- The town of Madison has been around longer than the state of Wisconsin, but it has to go. Just when, is now the question.

The cities of Madison and Fitchburg are asking the town to dissolve six years earlier than an annexation agreement requires. In 2003, the municipalities decided a quarter of the town would go to Fitchburg and the rest to the city of Madison by 2022. Pieces of land have been annexed over the years, but now the cities want to gain complete control of the town sooner.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Fitchburg Mayor Steve Arnold sent a letter to the town's chair Jim Campbell that was received Monday, laying out a proposal to amend the plan to move up takeover to as early as December 31, 2016, or as soon after that as possible. 

Arnold tells 27 News the cities will honor the terms of the original agreement-- offering jobs or severance to the town's more than 50 employees, as well as providing what he describes as "city-level" services to current town of Madison residents. Arnold says those higher quality services could come with higher taxes to pay for additional expenses, but declined to elaborate on how much of a funding gap he expects Fitchburg to face to provide those services.

He says there's a risk of letting the agreement run to the end of its term, like loss of workers or key equipment that could be costly for the town in its final years. A faster process will mean less chance of trouble as the municipalities make the transition, according to Arnold. He would like to see services phased in slowly over time, rather than all transitioned at once.

"All of these things are going to have growing pains and to have them all the same time is a huge challenge and we will get through it one way or another but I feel that we have an opportunity to do it more carefully and thoughtfully and therefore more cost-effectively," he says. "[We can] provide better services during the transition, instead of having gaps in services."

Town Board Chair Jim Campbell says he has already heard from concerned town employees who are worried about their futures. The plan says the cities will offer jobs to current staff, but it's not clear whether they'll be offered equivalent positions.

"[Soglin] doesn't have to offer comparable jobs, [the workers] might possibly be paid less than what they're getting now, that's what I see in that proposal," Campbell tells 27 News. "Here it is August and the mayor is proposing to put them out of a job possibly in December. He's got a vague promise of trying to hire them, but I'm not too sure how that'll work out. The time period is so short. It's ridiculously short."

Campbell has met with Mayor Soglin at least four times since 2013 to talk about the possibility of dissolving sooner, but he says it's never been worth it for the town to pursue that course. All three municipalities must agree to change the time frame. 

Arnold says he doesn't anticipate it would happen by the end of the year. He says his city will need at least 18 months to prepare for the transition, though he says Soglin wants it to happen faster. Fitchburg is expected to feel more of an impact of absorbing its portion of the town because it's a smaller city, according to Arnold, so he has to make sure the plan will be feasible. He says the proposal is just a framework that will need to be built up with the needs of all three municipalities.

The town's three member board isn't set to meet again until early October. Campbell says they may schedule an earlier meeting to discuss this topic, but he's not sure they'll decide to even vote on anything. 

"There was nothing in that agreement that says we're going to leave early," Campbell says. "There's nothing that says we're obligated to leave early. It's until October 31, 2022 and that's one thing that I know for sure. Anything else is pure speculation."

Soglin was not available for comment on the town of Madison proposal Monday afternoon.

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