Monday, June 13, 2016

What you may not know: Week of June 13

First off, my apologies for letting this blog lapse a bit. Here are my three excuses:

  • First of all, I try not to "cry wolf" and attract your attention to this space on weeks when I don't have anything of significant interest to discuss. We've had some quiet weeks as a council lately, and on those weeks I don't waste your time or mine by writing and asking you to read unnecessary updates.
  • Second, on a personal note, things like the Memorial Day holiday and my wedding anniversary led to me being out of town on a couple of weekends/Mondays when I would normally have written.
Anyway, enough excuses. I'm back at my desk now and here are some of the items we'll be discussing at our regularly scheduled Common Council meeting on Wednesday:

Cell phone towers

Several weeks ago I wrote about a Special Use Permit request from Verizon asking the city for permission to construct a new cell phone tower on Kesting Court, near the intersection of Northland Avenue and Meade Street. The proposed tower is very near multiple single-family homes (it could be as close as ten feet from the lot line adjacent to one property), which has raised a great deal of concern.

I share the residents' concern regarding this tower's impact value on their property values and quality of life. With that said, as I noted when a similar issue came up last summer, a 2013 amendment to state statute greatly limits our actions here. Full details on the statute are available at that last link, but the short version is that the city is not allowed to treat cell towers any differently than we would any other commercial building and cannot reject towers based on aesthetic concerns.

A vote to deny this permit would be a clear and blatant violation of state statute. I wish that both Verizon and the state had put us in a better position, but as we stand right now we have no choice but to allow this project to move forward.

South Oneida streetscape design

As the South Oneida Street reconstruction approaches, we've reached some of the decision points regarding the aesthetics of one of the most-trafficked entrances to downtown. Last week the Municipal Services Committee was asked to consider the Department of Public Works' recommendations for street lights in this area, and recommended a plan for approval (on a 3-1 vote) with the following amendments:
  • Adding semi-decorative city-owned LED lights from Roeland Avenue to the Skyline Bridge (except for one block) at a cost of $80,000.
  • Adding the same semi-decorative, city-owned LED lights on the bridge and up to Prospect Avenue at a cost of $40,000.
  • Replacing light poles from Wilson Street to the bridge with black fiberglass poles at a cost of $159,000.
All three of those amendments received at least one dissenting vote, so there was some controversy around the decision to add almost $280,000 in expenses to this project. I anticipate this item will receive significant debate again on Wednesday with a wide array of opinions on the value of decorative and/or uniform light fixtures.

Employee Health Clinic

Back in March I mentioned a proposal calling for the city and the Appleton Area School District to come together to work with Thedacare to provide a new health clinic for our employees and their families. Opening our own health clinic is projected to save the city a good deal in health care costs while providing employees more convenient access to acute, primary, occupational health and preventive care. At that time council approved a contract with Thedacare to provide this service at a space to be determined.

Last week the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of two items: An intergovernmental agreement between the city and the school district regarding cost sharing for this project and a lease for space for the clinic near Thedacare Regional Medical Center Appleton (formerly known as Appleton Medical Center). Neither item generated any major debate, so it looks like this project should move forward without issue.

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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