Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What you may not know: Week of May 18

My apologies for the late post: I just got back in from four days out of town on Monday night. Nonetheless, the Appleton Common Council will meet for its regularly-scheduled session on Wednesday at 7, and here are some of the agenda items I'll be watching:

Parking changes

Last week the Municipal Services Committee voted 5-0 to recommend approval of parking changes for 2015 calling for Monday-Saturday enforcement to end at 6 p.m. (previously 9 p.m.), meters north of Washington Street to be reduced from $.75 to $.20 per hour and those meters to have their maximum time extended from two to 12 hours.

Last week I mentioned some unanswered questions about unintended consequences of these changes, but those questions have been answered to my satisfaction and I think we're ready to proceed here. I think the only challenge remaining will be finding a way to implement these changes in a timely fashion with minimal confusion.

Highview Park Tennis Courts

An effort to bring tennis courts to Highview Park hit a non-insignificant snag recently when we opened the construction bids for the project. $105,500 remained available out of the $120,000 budgeted for this item, but the city received just one bid for the remaining work and the contractor was asking for $136,390. Once $5000 for contingencies is added, the amount of money that may be required is $141,390, which is 34% over budget.

Unfortunately, receiving a single bid for a summer construction project is not unusual: It's the busy season for many area contractors and that causes many of them to pick and choose projects, especially when dealing with smaller or specialized items. The bigger challenge for me is the large budget overrun. I voted against awarding this contract at the Finance Committee last week and will continue to push for the city to try again at a later date.

Licensing changes

One of the primary tasks facing the city's Safety & Licensing Committee is the evaluation of applicants for operator's (bartender's), taxi, commercial solicitation and street vendor licenses, but that process could see a significant change following Wednesday's council meeting.

The Police Department conducts background checks on all applicants for licenses and, under the current policy, flags some cases where they have concerns for consideration of denial. Anyone with a felony on their record, recent convictions that could be considered related or other concerns may receive that designation and their specific case will be looked over by the committee. Frequently we concur with their recommendation, but the process is important to ensure everyone gets a fair shake and an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

Last Wednesday S&L voted 3-2 to recommend changes to the policy granting the Police Department the authority to deny licenses outright, with applicants that have been flagged for denial only appearing before the committee if they announce their intention to appeal that decision.

I was one of the dissenting votes on that item last week, and remain concerned that this change will lead to the city denying licenses we would have granted in the past. I think the current system works and provides due process to all applicants, not just those who "opt in." I'm hopeful we'll stick with the current procedure.

Elected official salaries

Finally, in last week's post I mentioned that the Human Resources Committee was meeting to discuss the mayoral and city attorney salaries for those positions' 2016-20 terms. Both of those items were held and will be brought back to council at a later date.

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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