Monday, September 23, 2013

What you may not know: Week of September 23

If you're planning on attending a meeting during this committee week for the Appleton Common Council, odds are you'll see me there: I'm planning on attending six standing committee gatherings and the Fox Cities Transit Commission. Here are some highlights of interest:

Community and Economic Development, Monday, 5pm

It's been about a month since the last time we discussed Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), but they're back on the agenda this week. Here's a quick recap of how we got to this point:

  • CDBG grants are part of a federal program designed to provide money to projects that benefit low-to-moderate income residents. 
  • The city establishes a committee annually to review applications for these grants and make a recommendation on how they'll be distributed.
  • The city ran into an unexpected issue when they received about $90,000 more than their projected allotment this year. Staff made a recommendation to increase the awards of some existing projects, and proposed a new parking lot project at Einstein Park and Middle School.
  • After a month of debate, I proposed an amendment at the August 21 council meeting removing the Einstein project from the awards list and reopening the application process. It passed by a 7-5 vote.
A month has passed since then, and the city has received five applications for the $37,133 in remaining funds. You can see more details about the proposals in an attachment to the CEDC agenda at this link, but five departments and organizations have applied:
  • Appleton's Parks and Rec Department (for a different project)
  • Compassionate Home Health Care, Inc.
  • Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley
  • Harbor House
  • Sustainable Fox Valley
It's now up to the CEDC committee to make a recommendation on what to do with these funds. There are tough decisions to be made here, but I'm excited for the chance to use this money to help one or more of these great causes.

Utilities, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

For many, many months now the city has been looking into ways to alleviate stormwater issues north of Wisconsin Avenue along the city's western edge. More than a dozen proposals have been considered and we've finally reached a staff recommendation, which includes a stormwater pond along Birchwood Avenue that would require the city to purchase and demolish four residences.

This project will resolve flooding issues in the area, which neighboring residents have experienced as recently as 2001 and 2010. Obviously the decision to purchase and demolish homes is never made lightly, but of the multitude of options considered, this plan represents the highest cost-efficient level of stormwater improvement.

Projects like this are critical to preserve the quality of life for residents in flood-impacted areas, but they also come with a significant cost. This proposal, if approved, will cost an estimated $13.6 million between now and 2016.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

Speaking of longstanding issues, on Tuesday night the Municipal Services committee has an information item dealing with Appleton's new (can we still call them new?) blue recycling bins. Months ago the council passed a resolution asking for a review of options regarding the new bins, which have received mixed reviews.

On Tuesday the committee will, for the first time, discuss staff's findings regarding alternatives. Staff has presented us with two possible amendments to the 2014 budget that would allow us to purchase and distribute alternative-sized recycling containers, but both come with a significant financial impact. Replacing current 96-gallon bins with 35 or 65 gallon alternatives will cost roughly $80/bin.

We've been hearing for months that our constituents would like to see alternatives to the current blue bins, and I've been saying all along that the rubber will hit the road when we find out what a change might cost and see who's willing to pay for it. Certainly, some people want a change enough to justify the cost. How many people, though? That's a tougher question to answer.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

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