Finance, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.
Our first meeting of the week will likely draw a fair amount of attention, as the Finance Committee is expected to make a recommendation regarding a resolution calling for a referendum on the proposal to build a new Appleton Public Library.
The resolution is identical in language to one the council rejected in November: In fact, a council rule had to be changed to allow this resolution to be submitted again so soon. If it passes, voters would be asked the following question: "Should at least $30 million be spent by the taxpayers of the City of Appleton to construct a new municipal library?"
Council rejected this call for a referendum last fall at least partially because that question, as written, has some issues. The resubmittal of the resolution also creates some new problems:
- Vague answer. If this question appears on the ballot and the voters choose to vote "no," we'll never know why. There are a large number of moving parts in this project, including but not limited to the site, the cost, perceptions related to need for the facility, etc. A simple "no" vote without any further information gathered would make it very difficult for us to move forward in any coherent way.
- Timing. The resolution calls for a referendum to be placed on the ballot at our next scheduled election in April of 2016. That's nearly a full year the project would have to spend in limbo while we wait to see what the voters think.
- Fairness to involved parties. The city has been involved in discussions to purchase the two properties likely to hold a future library for some time now, and both sides have a strong interest in bringing this matter to a close so they know what their future holds. Adding another wrinkle to this process would leave both of the existing property owners hanging with an uncertain future for another year.
- Expense. In a related note, sending this project to referendum would likely increase its final cost. Ongoing work to keep the project positioned to move forward if approved would have to continue, and rising municipal interest rates would likely increase the cost of the final result.
For those reasons and others I've previously discussed, I think going to referendum represents a bad decision.
Municipal Services, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
In each of my last two posts I've mentioned several proposed changes to the way the city enforces downtown parking, including ending parking enforcement at 6 p.m., reducing the cost of meters north of Washington Street and extending the time limit on those meters. Approval of those three changes has been delayed briefly and the committee will discuss the matter again this week
The changes are still likely to pass eventually, but the delay was needed to address some questions about how these changes will impact the parking lot in front of the library. That discussion is expected to happen tonight and the full council should see this item again next week.
Appleton Redevelopment Authority and Community and Economic Development Committee, Wednesday, 4 and 5 p.m.
Finally, this week the efforts to build an exhibition center in downtown Appleton may take another step forward as both the Redevelopment Authority and Community and Economic Development Committees will be asked to recommend approval of a new contract with the consulting firm helping us with the project, Hinshaw and Culbertson.
The new contract calls for $160,000 for our consultants to work on building the coalition of neighboring communities necessary for the room tax to fund the project, working with the eventual lender on the borrowing element, negotiating the management agreement for the facility between the city and the hotel's new owners and creating governance policies for the ARA. In addition, the city could spend another $80,000 on closing costs and bond issuance, although those payments would come from the proceeds from the borrowing.
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.