Monday, January 20, 2014

What you may not know: Week of January 20

The Appleton Common Council has a busy committee week ahead, with some new issues and some longstanding debates on the agenda. Here are the highlights:

Community and Economic Development, Monday, 5 pm

I've written extensively about Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) in the past, as the city accepts applications annually for shares of money from a federal program designed to provide funds to projects that benefit low-to-moderate income residents. On Monday night the Community and Economic Development Committee will meet to make a recommendation for $124,900 in grant money available to non-government organizations in 2014.

A six-member advisory board has already met to make a preliminary recommendation for these funds, and here's their proposal:

  • Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity will receive $33,600 (requested $60,000).
  • Harbor House will receive $19,800 (requested $25,000).
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will receive $16,600 (requested $28,000).
  • Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities will receive $16,300 (requested $45,800).
  • Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley will receive $15,000 (requested $15,000).
  • STEP Industries will receive $13,600 (requested $37,000).
  • Fox Valley Warming Shelter will receive $10,000 (requested $10,000).
  • Compassionate Home Health Care will receive no money (requested $50,000).

Determining how this money is distributed is an enormous task, of course, and I'm eager to hear how we arrived at this result.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

The Municipal Services Committee will be busy on Tuesday night, as they have three interesting items on their agenda.

First, they'll discuss Alderman Joe Martin's proposal to add decorative street lighting to the Skyline (Oneida Street) bridge when the street is reconstructed in 2015. The lights would look similar to those installed on the College Avenue bridge and throughout downtown. The estimated cost to replace the current lights with decorative fixtures is around $160,000, raising a debate on whether beautifying one of the entrances to our downtown area is worth a pretty significant expenditure in tax dollars.

Second, the effort to procure a second option for the city's recycling bins will take another step forward as the committee is expected to select some possible vendors and sizes to request quotes. Two weeks ago the committee was split on the appropriate size for a smaller alternative bin. Most local communities that offer an alternative use something between 60-65 gallons, but a smaller size (48, 35 or 32 gallons) is available for purchase.

Finally, two weeks ago the committee approved a proposed pilot project to install a "bike corral" in a parking space on College Avenue in front of Harmony Cafe, but the issue was referred back at council and will be discussed again. At the last Municipal Services meeting some concerns were raised about potential safety issues caused by bicyclists needing to ride down College Avenue to reach the corral.

Parks and Recreation, Wednesday, 6 pm

Finally, we'll have yet another discussion in our long series on dogs in parks at Wednesday night's Parks and Rec meeting. A series of amendments regarding park ordinances was approved by a 3-2 vote two weeks ago, but last week at council I referred the issue back to committee.

I've been supportive all along of efforts to allow dogs into the parks with certain restrictions, but as I've discussed it with constituents and others over the last couple of weeks it's become apparent that we'll need some time to make some infrastructure adjustments to the parks if we're going to allow dogs. I'm most concerned about our park rules signs (which currently all say "no pets"), potential bag dispensers to encourage people to pick up after their dogs and our park garbage cans, which may need to be emptied more frequently.

This week I'm hopeful we'll discuss potential adjustments that may need to be made and the possibility that we could allow dogs at a date in the future, giving us some time to make the changes needed to do this correctly.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

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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