Soda water fee fizzles: Ordinance repealed after clerk crunches numbers

By Ryan Billingham - Enterprise Staff

March 26, 2015

OCONOMOWOC — Soda water may not pop to mind when issues of government inefficiency bubble up, but the Oconomowoc Common Council took action Tuesday, bursting a fee that generates a net loss for the city.

The council unanimously approved the repeal the city’s decades-old soda water license ordinance requiring any establishment that serves or sells soda water beverages pay a $5 annual fee.

There is no mandate for the fee in state statutes, but they do limit it to $5 per year.

City Clerk Diane Coenen said she crunched the numbers and found the city was losing money by enforcing the fee.

The city collected an average of $479 per year in soda water fees over the last five years but spent an average of $1,551 processing the licenses during that span — a net loss of $1,072 per year.

It takes approximately 25 minutes for one soda water fee to be processed at an average cost of $16.16 per application.

“Based on that and that I believe staff’s time can be used on other priorities, I am recommending we repeal this code so we no longer have to issue soda water licenses,” Coenen said.

Alderman Matt Rosek, secretary of the Protection and Welfare Committee that recommended the repeal, lauded Coenen’s efforts and suggested the staff look into other ordinances not mandated by state statute.

“At some point I’d like a list of all of our other licenses we are charging for that we aren’t required to charge for per state statute — find out if we can do a little bit more of this,” Rosek said. “It seems like it’s good for the folks and businesses. I applaud your efforts on this one.”

According to Rosek the law has been on the books “as long as anyone could remember,” and staff and Mayor Jim Daley agreed it was at least 50 years old.