Last year, I fought and eventually prevailed in restoring most of the cuts to the operating hours of Janesville pools. This year, many people in our community and across the state, are struggling during these times of record high temperatures, while too many have no working air-conditioning at all. Though in most years, making sure city pools are available for the residents to use during normal hours is viewed as a quality of life issue, this year providing opportunities for people to cool off is a matter of survival.
All services come at a cost, and as we know from this Gazette article, the cost of keeping the pools open a couple of extra hours, adds up to roughly $15,000, which is the cost of keeping the lifeguards around throughout the summer. These days, City of Janesville is suffering not just from the record high temperatures but also from negligence that comes from Madison. Last year, we lost $864,000 in state shared revenue, which in turn forced the city government to look for more ways to save money, including cutting back on operating hours of the city pools.
This year, Wisconsin has seen its share of extreme weather. On June 26, Governor Walker declared a State of Emergency for three counties in the northwestern part of the state. According to the story by Reuters News Agency “The state of emergency covers Douglas, Ashland and Bayfield counties and allows local municipalities to seek reimbursement for repair and cleanup costs. Walker also directed all state agencies to assist the area in the cleanup and recovery effort.” Fortunately no one died as the result of these floods.
On June 29, Governor Walker requested two federal disaster declarations for Wisconsin to help farmers suffering from extreme heat conditions. According to this story “Governor Walker has requested federal aid for disaster relief due to the recent drought conditions that impacted fruit trees and maple syrup collection.” Yet, with the summer heat waves being the biggest weather related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years, far exceeding tornado and other storm related deaths, our state government appears to be paying attention to the farmers and is ignoring the rest of the residents directly affected by the record-high temperatures.
In these days of triple-digit heat waves, when we rightly worry about the impact this drought will have on our farmers and crops, having deprived our local communities of badly needed resources needed to provide vital services, our state government should play a constructive role by setting up a fund to reimburse local communities that chose to keep municipal pools open for extra hours. The cost of reimbursement for local government for a few extra hours of open pool hours, surely is worth the cost of saving human lives endangered by this potentially fatal weather.
As your Representative in Madison, I will work hard to put our tax dollars to good use by bringing the resources of the state and federal government in helping our local communities keep local city pools open for extra hours during these dangerous heat waives which are surely to come again in the future. Establishing a mechanism now, will help us avoid dangerous delays down the road, and will help us save lives.