Monday, June 20, 2016

What you may not know: Week of June 20

The first day of summer is also the first day of a busy committee week for the Appleton Common Council. While most of this week's discussions are unlikely to be controversial, I wanted to highlight a few discussions that I thought might shed some light on some of our processes:

Finance Committee, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

The Finance Committee has a relatively brief agenda for our Tuesday meeting, but one of the action items calls for the city to reject bids and postpone scheduled work on a stormwater lift station in Arbutus Park.

The 2016 budget allocated $140,000 for the construction portion of a project to rehabilitate this facility, which raises up stormwater in this otherwise low-lying area to allow it to flow downhill into the storm sewers instead of backing up into the park. Unfortunately, our bidding process for this portion of the project was not as successful as we would have hoped: The city received just one bid on the project, and at $215,000 it's more than 50% above budget.

Decisions like this put us in a tough spot. Certainly, no one wants to go over budget on any project. However, this project was in our budget for this year because this work does need to be done. In this case, the staff recommendation is to reject all bids and put the project out for bids again in the fall. There's no guarantee that we'll receive more or better bids at that point, but that's what we're hoping for.

Municipal Services Committee, Tuesday, 6:30 pm

Later that same night the Municipal Services Committee will meet to discuss three items of significant potential long-term interest:

  • First, the committee will be asked to recommend approval of the city's "Complete Streets Policy," a set of guidelines to use when designing future street projects. This item would set the basic expectations for future road reconstruction around the city and identify what requests for variation would require an appeal.
  • Next, the committee will discuss next steps in the city's effort to become a Railroad Quiet Zone. There aren't a lot of details in with the agenda, but the information items calls for a discussion of "which option to pursue for property owner notification."
  • Finally, the committee also has an information item to provide an update on a previous resolution calling for the Public Works and Parks & Recreation Departments to create and share a new position to coordinate efforts to expand and improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the city. There's more to it than this, but the short version of this discussion is that a request to fund this proposed position has been sent to the mayor for his consideration as part of the 2017 budget.
Fox Cities Transit Commission, Wednesday, 3 pm

Of all the things I've had to deal with during my time on council, it's possible the funding mechanism for Valley Transit is the most complicated. The combination of federal and state funding that meets up with a local share split up among more than half a dozen municipalities (with contributions from three counties and various other organizations) creates a dizzying equation to attempt to follow.

This week we'll get another glimpse into that process as the Transit Commission will be asked to approve the acceptance of a pair of federal grants that will be combined with budgeted funds from previous years and a local share from the organization's depreciation fund to provide for the purchase of three new buses for the fleet.

The age, mileage and related reliability issues of the fleet is one of the greatest issues facing Valley Transit in its effort to remain viable for the long term. Three buses won't be enough to solve that, but it is a big step in the right direction and I'm glad to see forward progress on this front.

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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