Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What you may not know: Week of August 4

After a week off, the Appleton Common Council resumes our normal schedule this week with our first full council meeting of August on Wednesday. Our top stories this week are likely to be items I've discussed before, so here are some updates from my last post two weeks ago:


On Monday, July 21 the City Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a resolution calling for an immediate, temporary halt to the enforcement of our ordinance regarding painted signs and murals. The ordinance, as currently written, would call for some public art and advertising like the painting on the exterior of the Wilmar Chocolates building on Wisconsin Avenue to be painted over.

It's worth noting that this resolution is not a permanent solution to this issue. The resolution calls for a temporary halt to enforcement while the city reviews and potentially amends its policies. Those possible changes would come at a later date.

In the meantime, however, I suspect we'll pass this resolution and open the door for the review process.

Fire Trucks

During our last week of committee meetings the Central Equipment Agency Review Committee, Finance Committee and Safety & Licensing Committee all voted unanimously to recommend approval of a proposal calling for the Appleton Fire Department to purchase a new, in-stock fire truck from Pierce Manufacturing to replace our 100-foot platform truck, which is 14 years old and in need of major service.

Purchasing this truck comes at a cost, as the city will have to add an additional $200,000 to our 2014 borrowing package to cover the resulting shortfall in the existing truck's vehicle replacement fund. In the bigger picture, though, buying a new truck now represents both the best short and long-term decisions when combining issues of public safety and fiscal responsibility.


On July 23 the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a "resolution of necessity" authorizing city staff to open negotiations to purchase the proposed site of a new library.

This resolution would authorize the city to pay for appraisals of both properties and begin negotiations with their owners regarding a possible agreement to purchase these spaces. Without these resolutions the city cannot proceed with the effort to build a library on these properties.

At the Finance Committee meeting we again received very strong assurances the city does not intend to condemn or otherwise force out these property owners. We intend to negotiate and make our best offer but we're prepared to move on to alternatives if the owners are unwilling to sell. This resolution is a necessity to move along with that process.

Special Assessments for Utilities

Also at our July 23 Finance Committee meeting we voted 4-1 to approve an amendment to the city's special assessment policy dealing with sanitary sewer reconstruction. Our current policy calls for homeowners to receive a special assessment for a portion of both the sewer main and the lateral extending to their property line. Our amendment would call for the city to continue to assess for 50% of the cost of the lateral, but removes the cost of the main and several related items from the special assessment.

This change could reduce the sanitary sewer utility portion of a homeowner's special assessment by roughly two thirds, and reduces their assessment obligation to only the part of the project that specifically benefits their property: The lateral connecting them to the sewer main.

Once the committee voted to make that amendment, we voted unanimously to send the amended policy on to council for approval.

Once we've reached a final decision on the utilities portion of the policy, we're expected to move on to discussing street reconstruction and a possible wheel tax at our next Finance Committee meeting on August 13. Street reconstruction and/or the wheel tax are not on Wednesday's Council agenda.

Bike Lanes

On July 22 the Municipal Services Committee voted unanimously to continue to hold an action item calling for portions of five streets to be retrofitted with bike lanes when other portions of those streets come up for reconstruction in the coming years. This item will not be on Wednesday's Council agenda.

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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