Monday, March 10, 2014

What you may not know: Week of March 10

It's an active committee week for the Appleton Common Council. Here are some highlights:

Human Resources, Monday, 6 pm

The city recently wrapped up an extended review of salaries throughout city government, establishing pay grades and raise opportunities for hundreds of employees. The process was long and challenging, and unfortunately a pay freeze during the process created some short and long-term issues.

One of those issues came in the Utilities Department, where we're experiencing issues as several longtime employees have departed. The extremely complex nature of the water and wastewater treatment facilities mean it's very difficult to replace those employees and a lot of experience and expertise is lost with them.

At 6 tonight the HR committee will consider a one-time pay adjustment for some employees in this department that will hopefully stem the tide of departures. We're always cognizant of the cost of doing things like this, but I anticipate we'll decide that the cost of continuing to lose employees is greater.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

Frequent readers of this space will know that bike lanes have been one of the most often-debated topics we've faced in my year on the council. Another debate is coming as the Municipal Services Committee is expected to consider a plan this week to add lanes to Fremont Street (from St. Elizabeth Hospital to near East High School) and remove parking on portions of the street.

As a council we're not that far removed from the debate on Mason Street, and this one is similar in several ways. Fremont Street passes through a residential area, so removing or restricting on-street parking will cause some hardship for residents. We're also hearing a lot of the same questions we heard during that debate.

I anticipate we'll hear spirited debate again on the merits of creating bicycle infrastructure vs the value of on-street parking. Odds are this is merely the first chapter in an extended conversation.

Parks and Recreation, Wednesday, 6 pm

One of the more surprising developments of this year has been the sudden decision to close the Gardens of the Fox Cities at Memorial Park. While the facility is in a city park, operation of the grounds was done by an independent group that elected to cease operations.

That decision has left the city in a couple of difficult predicaments: First, there are some short-term adjustments that will need to be made to pay for ongoing maintenance of the facility. The grounds will still need some ongoing work to remain viable, and we're going to have to find some room in the budget to pay for that.

Beyond that, we have the bigger question of our long-term plan for the facility. Multiple groups have reached out to us about partnering to manage the Gardens going forward, so we should have plenty of opportunities to ensure this popular attraction continues to operate.

No decisions will be made on this matter on Wednesday, but we do have an information item on the agenda so we can all get on the same page regarding the situation and get informed about what happens next.

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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