Last week the Finance Committee voted 4-1 to deny a resolution calling for an advisory referendum in spring of 2016 regarding a proposed new Appleton Public Library. Last week I outlined four reasons why I wasn't supportive of the possible referendum, citing a poor proposed question, difficult timing, the unfair nature of forcing the current property owners to wait a year to learn if we're interested in purchasing their spaces and the likely increased costs resulting from the delay.
In addition to those four concerns, two more have since come to the surface:
- Moot point. I can't go into specifics on ongoing property negotiations, but last Tuesday the mayor mentioned that at least one of the two property owners involved is motivated to get a deal done and likely would not wait the full year if we delay the project to hold a referendum. As such, by the time we were able to hold a vote the entire project could be off the table anyway.
- Precedent. The library is not the only large scale project in the city. In the last ten years we've taken on massive stormwater projects, constructed a new police station and various other endeavors and in the next ten we're likely to look at major parking overhauls, renovation or reconstruction of facilities like Erb Pool and more. Opening the door to referendum on this project would make it very difficult for us to draw a line on when we do or don't do so in the future.
This week the council is expected to go into closed session for an update on property negotiations. I'm hopeful we will continue to move forward on this project, instead of delaying it until next April.
Last week the Municipal Services Committee made some minor amendments to the proposed changes to downtown parking enforcement. Duke Behnke of the Post Crescent has a story today on the proposal.
All along the proposal has called for ending parking enforcement at 6 p.m., reducing the cost of meters north of Washington Street and extending the time limit on those meters. The matter was referred back to committee two weeks ago so an exception could be added for the parking lot in front of the library, which is north of Washington Street but will continue to have two-hour meters.
I expect these changes to pass without much controversy, and they should be implemented this summer.
Last week both the Appleton Redevelopment Authority and the Community and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously to approve retaining consulting firm Hinshaw and Culbertson for "Phase 3" of the efforts to construct a new exhibition center downtown. The city's financial commitment for this portion of the process is $240,000 to support work to build a coalition of local communities that will need to agree to raise their room taxes, working with an eventual lender on bond negotiations, developing a management agreement between the city and the hotel's new ownership and creating governance policies for the new facility.
I've called previously for this project to be set aside for a variety of reasons, and I'm still not entirely comfortable with it. However, if we're going to proceed (as council has voted to do), I'd be even more uncomfortable going forward without an experienced consultant guiding our efforts.
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.