Monday, September 15, 2014

What you may not know: Week of September 15

It's a busy week for the Appleton Common Council and for me personally, so I hope you'll forgive me for skipping the chit-chat and moving straight to this week's items of interest:

Library Board, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

A possible new home for the Appleton Public Library has been in the news a lot lately and the project will take another step forward on Tuesday as we learn one more piece of the budgetary puzzle. As part of her regularly scheduled report, Friends Executive Director Jan Quinlan is expected to announce the results of their study to determine how much of a new facility's construction cost we can expect to receive through private donations. Once we have that number, we'll know the city's likely share.

$42 million has been a number frequently thrown around as the construction cost of a new library, but that figure is somewhat misleading as it includes the costs for spaces built to be used by the Outagamie Waupaca Library System (OWLS) and our own Parks and Recreation Department. The library's actual share of the construction cost is less at $36.6 million, and any private donations will continue to lower that figure.

As I said on the council floor several weeks ago, any library project will need to be a public-private partnership to succeed. I look forward to hearing what the Friends group has learned regarding the generosity of our community.

Common Council Workshop, Wednesday, 6 pm

Before Wednesday's scheduled council meeting we'll have a one-hour workshop to work through many of the details and updates regarding a proposal to construct an exhibition center downtown. This project has been on our radar screens for quite some time but may be nearing a final decision soon.

The exhibition center proposal has undergone a variety of changes over half a decade of consideration, the most notable being a decrease in the potential economic impact and the likely reality that the city will have to own the facility if it is constructed. The latter note is a sticking point for me, as owning the facility would remove it from the tax rolls and could leave in a position where a less-than-expected result would have to be subsidized with tax dollars.

I've heard a fair amount from constituents and business owners both strongly in favor of and opposed to this project moving forward. For now, I'm waiting to see the full picture before making a final decision.

Common Council, Wednesday, 7 pm

Finally, we have our regularly scheduled council meeting. In my opinion, the most notable items on our agenda this week are two I discussed in last week's update:

  • Last week the Human Resources Committee voted 4-1 to recommend approval of a 2% pay raise for members of the common council starting in April of 2016. Alderpersons have not received a raise since 2009 and currently make $5,805/year, so this raise amounts to about $116 per alderperson per year or about $1750 per year from the city budget. Two percent is equal to the increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index from July of 2013 to July of 2014, so this increase allows us to keep up with inflation after seven years of falling behind.
  • Also last week, the Parks and Recreation Committee voted 3-1 to approve a proposal to self-operate the clubhouse at Reid Golf Course for 2015. As I outlined last week, retaining some of the revenue that currently goes to a clubhouse contractor is the course's best opportunity to remain financially viable for the long term.
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.


  1. Your stance on the library is extremely concerning. I believe you are not on the side of your constituents on this issue and your refusal to allow this to come to a referendum ("I'm afraid of putting this decision in the hands of the people who do not have access to all of the information that we've had access to") is a very poor line of logic. I look forward to actively campaigning against your reelection, should you support passage of this colossal waste of money in a 21st century digital society.

  2. I'm very sorry to hear that you feel that way.

    It does seem intuitive that the role of a library would diminish in "a 21st century digital society," as you suggested, but that's simply not the case. Library usage has nearly tripled on a per-day basis since the current facility was constructed in 1981, going from 600 users to 1600 in an average day. The reasons people are using the library have changed, certainly, but usage has not declined.