The city of Appleton's standing committees will meet this week for the last time before the 2014 budget process begins in November. Here are some highlights from this week's agenda:
Human Resources, Monday, 6 pm
We'll start this week with the latest news on labor negotiations. The contract between the City of Appleton and the union-represented members of the Police Department expires at the end of the year, and last week we heard at council that there's a tentative agreement in place for a new contract.
At this point I haven't heard the details of the new agreement, but it's possible Monday's HR meeting will be my first opportunity to learn about it. At present it's not on the agenda, though, so I'm not sure. If I find out for sure that the contract will not be discussed, I'll update this post.
UPDATE: I've since been informed that this tentative agreement will not come before the council until it's been ratified by the union. As such, the HR committee won't discuss it until November 11 at the earliest.
Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm
Two weeks ago this committee discussed some minor modifications to the city's Snow and Ice Removal policy and recommended the policy for approval from the full council, but at council Alderman Smith referred the issue back to the committee for further consideration.
A question Alderman Smith has asked before and may ask again on Tuesday has to do with the window property owners are given to clear snow following a storm. Currently they get 36 hours from the end of the precipitation to have their sidewalks cleared, but the clock is reset if it snows again during those 36 hours.
I think 36 hours is a fair amount of time to allow people to plan for snow removal, and will not support any effort to reduce it. Sometimes circumstances come up or snow falls at an inconvenient time and our property owners need that window to either find time to clear the snow themselves or make arrangements for someone else to do it. I understand that clear sidewalks increase safety, but I think we also need to be understanding of the fact that sometimes life gets in the way.
Finance, Wednesday, 4:30 pm
One of the items on this week's Finance Committee agenda was also discussed at Parks and Recreation two weeks ago. The city budgeted this year for a project to improve the restroom facilities at Memorial Park, with slightly more than $150,000 set aside to produce a building that is expected to eliminate the need for the city to rent portable toilets at the park.
Unfortunately, bids for the project came in well over our expectations and the lowest estimate was $253,375. The project turned out to be more expensive than expected largely because utility lines will need to be extended nearly 500 feet to reach this facility and a 110 foot asphalt path will have to be added to make it ADA accessible.
Over $250,000 for a bathroom project is, of course, a tough dollar figure to swallow. With that said, doing this project right the first time will reduce maintenance costs, lower the need for additional improvements going forward and allow the city to stop paying to rent portable toilets for events in the park.
Assuming this proposal passes the Finance Committee this week and the full council in November, the restrooms are expected to be constructed by spring of 2014.
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.