LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) Following an audit of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, the City of La Crosse and the MVC have reached an agreement.
It provides for a transfer of seven properties in the La Crosse Bluffland Protection area to the City.
You may recall the City and DNR raised questions about a 2011 MVC acquisition of land. In early 2012, the DNR and City ordered an audit of the MVC use of City Bluffland Protection funds and state Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grants related to that acquisition.
According to a release from the City, DNR and MVC, "The MVC acknowledges that a cash flow analysis of their use of City Bluffland Protection funds raised a legitimate question."
Regarding the state funds, the DNR says "the audit affirmed that Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program grant funds were used for eligible land acquisition costs.
DNR grant manager Pam Foster Felt told News 19 the agreement to transfer land to the City is related to a contract between the City and the MVC.
The release says the audit suggested accounting improvements for the MVC. The MVC says it will implement those suggestions.
Release from DNR, City of La Crosse, and MVC:
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- On Monday, December 3, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC) and La Crosse City officials signed an agreement to transfer ownership of seven properties in the La Crosse Blufflands Protection Area to the City of La Crosse. The property transfers were part of a resolution of concerns of both the city and the Department of Natural Resources about MVC's use of city and state funds to acquire lands in the La Crosse Blufflands.
In early 2012, the city and state together ordered an audit of MVC's uses of City Bluffland Protection Program funds and State Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grants.
MVC acknowledges that a September, 2011 cash-flow analysis of their use of City Bluffland Protection Program funds raised a legitimate question for DNR and the City of La Crosse, which led to the decision by both entities to conduct an audit of MVC activities. The audit suggested improvements to MVC's accounting practices which MVC has agreed to implement.
The audit affirmed that Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant funds were used for eligible land acquisition costs, according to DNR. Assuring the integrity of the Stewardship program and use of Stewardship funds have been DNR's priorities throughout this process. MVC has been ineligible to receive grants since last September while the audit progressed.
Agency spokesperson Bill Cosh explains that DNR needs to be confident that Stewardship dollars are invested not only in important places, but in partners who have sound financial and land management practices in place. The Department and MVC have a shared goal that MVC will be re-instated as an eligible grantee, and are working to accomplish that as soon as possible.
The City of La Crosse thanks the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Secretary Cathy Stepp, Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney and the entire DNR staff for all of their assistance with this audit. As stewards of public money, we must all be concerned that public dollars are used for their intended purposes. With the completion of this audit and the resolution of the issues with MVC, the City taxpayers will be in possession of over 1,000 acres of protected bluff land properties and additional funds are now available to further the purposes of the La Crosse Bluffland Protection Program. We look forward to working in partnership with Mississippi Valley Conservancy and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on future projects.
MVC is pleased to have this matter resolved and looks forward to working with the City and the DNR in continuing MVC's important work of preserving and protecting scenic landscapes.
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