By Shereen Siewert

Town officials in Rib Mountain are considering a plan that to incorporate into either a village or city, and will speak with a consultant to aid in the decision-making process.

In Wisconsin, the state’s 1,266 towns are both surveying measurements and units of government that were initially designed to meet the needs of farmers, according to the League of Municipalities. But as the state gradually urbanized, the state Legislature gradually developed a new system for urban areas and giving them additional governmental powers. Wisconsin’s roughly 400 villages and 190 cities are incorporated, much like a business. Cities and villages have additional powers and responsibilities to govern themselves and manage their own affairs which are not granted to counties and townships, such as the ability to create Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) districts.

Counties and towns belong to the state, and can only do what the state legislature authorizes. That’s one point the Rib Mountain town board took into consideration Tuesday. Town Administrator Gaylene Rhoden, in a list of pros and cons distributed to board members this week, noted that incorporating would also protect Rib Mountain from annexation and pave the way for long-term debt borrowing. As a village or city, debt terms can be extended to 20 years.

Incorporation would also create a one-stop shop for the sanitary district, which would eliminate an extra layer of government, Rhoden said in a Feb. 4 interoffice memo. There are also benefits to having complete authority over budgeting, while allowing for the potential to expand Rib Mountain’s boundaries to the west and south through annexation.

But the move could also come with some increased costs and the process could be complicated by potential objections from neighboring communities, Rhoden said.

If the town ultimately decides to move forward, the process begins by publishing a notice of intent to circulate an incorporation petition. The petition would then be circulated before being filed with the court.

The discussion on incorporation was borne out of the board’s strategic planning session in June.

Rhoden tells Wausau Pilot & Review that the board didn’t make a decision on Tuesday but will hear more from consultant Bill Forrest before moving forward.