Monday, January 25, 2016

What you may not know: Week of January 25

It's a committee week for the Appleton Common Council, and here are the items I'll be watching:

Finance Committee, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

An item related to the Exhibition Center project will appear on the agenda at this meeting and again at Wednesday's Appleton Redevelopment Authority (4 pm) and Community and Economic Development Committee (5 pm) meetings.

The item pertains to some budget overages related to the final stage of the property acquisition and pursuit of agreements between all of the partner municipalities as the final decisions were made to proceed with this project last November. Our contract with Hinshaw and Culbertson, the consulting firm working on this project, set a budget for $80,000 in hourly labor during what had been labeled as "Phase III" of the effort. The actual bill for hourly labor is more than $30,000 over budget.

The explanation we've been given for these overages is the complex nature of the agreements needed and the compressed timeframe generated by the November deadline to close on the property. Portions of this overage can be applied to the project's bonding, meaning the overage will be paid by room tax dollars and not property tax dollars. Nonetheless, I find it troubling that our estimates for the cost of this portion of the project were this far off.

Also at this meeting, we'll have the latest in a series of discussions about a proposed ordinance change that would allow alderpersons to participate in council meetings remotely when they're unable to attend. I've written about this on multiple previous occasions, most recently in December. At this week's meeting we should have details from a test of our technological capacity that will help illuminate this discussion.

Utilities Committee, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

Also on Tuesday, we'll learn more about changes in the city's upcoming water main work that will impact traffic this summer at the intersection of Northland Avenue and Richmond Street.

I believe I've mentioned previously that the city and state have been working for a long time on a redesign for this intersection, which is scheduled to be reconstructed in 2017. It's relatively common for a project like this to include reconstruction of the utility infrastructure under the street in an effort to avoid having to rip up the street a second time to make necessary repairs in the future. The city's current five-year plan included a budget item for water main work in this area in 2017, to coincide with the street project.

Unfortunately, we've since received word from the state that it's not going to be feasible to proceed that way. In that event, the second-best option is to do the water main work before the reconstruction, so that once the final concrete is poured we shouldn't need to dig it up again.

As such, on Tuesday the Utilities Committee will be asked to consider a proposal that would move the water main portion of this project up to 2016. There are two notable implications from this change:

  1. First, a budget adjustment will need to be made. Staff has identified four water main projects scheduled for 2016 that can be delayed to allow this project to proceed within the existing money available.
  2. Additionally, this likely means there will be some traffic impact in this area this summer as portions of the road will need to be closed for this work.
I'm assuming we'll have more details on the latter point in the weeks and months to come.

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. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.

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