Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What you may not know: Week of June 15

Before I get to this week's updates, I wanted to take a moment to send out thoughts to everyone impacted by this week's heavy rainfall and the resulting flooding. I know many residents in the southernmost portion of the 13th district experienced a fair amount of standing water on Monday as the city set a new single-day rainfall record with 2.23 inches. To put that into perspective, the National Severe Storms Laboratory says one inch of rain is (on average) equal to about 13 inches of snow, so this storm is roughly comparable to a blizzard dishing out 29 inches of snow.

Thankfully, the sun is out today and helping our storm sewers catch up. As such, this week's regularly-scheduled council meeting (and a special meeting) will still take place on Wednesday, and most of the attention is likely to be focused on one item:

Library Land Purchase

Before taking up anything else, the council will meet in special session at 6 pm on Wednesday to discuss a possible offer to purchase the Trinity Lutheran Church/Fox Banquets properties as a step towards construction of a new Appleton Public Library. This decision is the culmination of over six years of work to determine a site where the facility can best serve the community in the years to come.

I've written countless times about the reasons why I support moving forward with a new library, and instead of repeating those points again I'll refer you to APL150.org, where many of the reasons for proceeding this way are laid out. I also cannot publicly discuss details of the sale price (to this point they've only been discussed in closed session), but I suspect the number will be acceptable to most of the project's supporters. There's likely no number that would please the people who don't think we should be moving forward with this at all.

Regardless of outcome, this discussion has a possibility to be a milestone moment for the city of Appleton. I hope we'll decide to make an investment in making Appleton a great place to live and learn for generations to come.

Trestle negotiations

In last week's update I mentioned that council would be asked to approve an agreement between the city and Canadian National Railroad calling for the railroad to donate their abandoned trestles over the Fox River. At the time I didn't have any additional details.

It turns out this agreement is similar to what has been proposed in the past: The railroad would like three rail crossings in the city closed in exchange for ownership of the trestles, and the city has already closed two of them in the years past. The agreement on the table now calls for the city to close one more crossing over the next year in exchange for near-immediate ownership of the properties.

There is a financial reason why the timetable is important: The city has received a grant for $100,000 towards the process of including these trestles in our trail system, but that grant will expire if the city hasn't taken ownership by July 5. As such, we're running out of time to reach a deal.

If this deal does pass and is accepted by the railroad, the city will have some work to do to determine which crossing will close. In the past staff has recommended closing the crossing at Locust and Lawrence Streets just south of College Avenue, but council has been unwilling to support that recommendation. Entering into this agreement would force us to take action on that intersection or find another one to close.

Other updates

Here are some quick notes on two items I mentioned last week:

  • The City Plan Commission opted to hold the resolution calling for an expansion on the types of properties allowed to keep beehives. The item will appear on their agenda again on Monday.
  • Both the Utilities and Finance Committees voted unanimously on a staff recommendation to delay a portion of the West Wisconsin Stormwater project and re-bid next year to allow time to deal with some unexpected soil issues. That item will appear on this week'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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