Monday, July 6, 2015

What you may not know: Week of July 6

Hopefully everyone had a great and safe holiday, and is ready for an interesting committee week for the Appleton Common Council. Here are some of the items I'll be watching:

Human Resources, Monday, 5 pm

The City of Appleton's governmental structure is back on the table for discussion this week as the HR Committee will have their first discussion on a resolution calling for the city to consider eliminating the current mayor-council system in place of a format including a city administrator position. The resolution in play doesn't call for a change outright, but calls for the possibility to be researched and for a recommendation to come before council by October 7.

This discussion isn't new, by any means: The possibility of a change was researched at length in 1990 when council opted to stick with the current structure.

From my perspective, this issue comes down to efficiency. Hiring a city administrator could cost the city over $130,000 annually, and we'll likely continue to have a mayor at a reduced role and salary. In 2015 the mayor is receiving $94,686, so that's a significant annual cost increase. It's possible the money we're considering spending here could fund an entire additional staff person or more in another city department.

The proponents of this plan likely have a lot of work to do to demonstrate that the city would experience enough improvement under a new system to justify the cost.

Finance, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

On Tuesday the Finance Committee will take up three items that may be of minor interest:

First, the committee will be asked to reject all bids for a tennis court project at Highview Park, pushing the construction back to 2016. We had budgeted money for this project in 2015 but the bids for construction came back well above our expectations during our initial bidding process this spring, and have come back high again following an attempt to re-bid the project this summer. Assuming council approves the request to reject all bids, we'll likely budget for this project again in 2016.

Second, as I've mentioned previously, council will be asked to consider a proposed ordinance regarding remote participation for members who cannot make it to our meetings. I'm in favor of this ordinance in concept but will likely recommend a change or two to its execution before I'll be comfortable supporting it.

Finally, I wanted to mention an action item dealing with debt management. On Tuesday the committee will be asked to recommend approval of a recommendation allowing $845,330 of the city's unassigned fund balance to be used to pay down long-term debt. That figure represents 75% of the city's balance surplus, meaning we can use it to pay down debt and still hold on to three months' worth of operating expenditures to be used in case of emergency.

I know I've mentioned previously that Appleton's long term debt per capita is easily lower than any other comparable community in the state of Wisconsin, and here's another example of why that's the case. Responsibly handling our fund balances and paying down debt early helps us keep costs down for our projects and ensure low interest rates for borrowing going forward.

Board of Health, Wednesday, 7 am

Finally, the Board of Health will be up bright and early on Wednesday for the latest addition to an ongoing conversation about urban beekeeping.

I've written at length about some of the possible regulations that could be considered if beekeeping was expanded to residential property, as proposed in Alderpersons Polly Dalton and Vered Meltzer's resolution. In addition, there's an extended story in today's Post Crescent discussing the possibility with comments from one Fox Cities beekeeper discussing the benefits of implementing a change.

If the Board opts to take action on this item on Wednesday, the resolution would appear before the full council on Wednesday, July 15.

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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