Monday, January 16, 2017

What you may not know: Week of January 16

The Appleton Common Council has a regularly-scheduled council meeting this Wednesday at 7 pm. Due to last week's inclement weather on Tuesday, however, we have a bit of business to take care of first:

Finance Committee, Wednesday, 6 pm

The Finance Committee had to cancel our regularly scheduled meeting last week and will instead meet before council this week to take up an item I mentioned in last week's update: A proposed agreement to purchase four fire trucks over the next four years from Pierce Manufacturing in a package deal. The Safety & Licensing Committee recommended this item for approval on a 4-0 vote at our meeting on Wednesday.

One of the challenges in entering into a long-term agreement like this as a city is our budgeting process: Our budgets are set annually and council cannot "bind" future councils to make a decision a certain way in years ahead. As such, council cannot actually commit to purchase trucks beyond the current budget year, discount or no discount, as the decision to actually pay for them rests in the hands of (potentially) future holders of our offices. At Safety & Licensing the agreement was clarified a bit: While this is a tentative agreement to purchase four vehicles at an established price, the city does have the ability to back out of the deal without penalty if the council should decide at any point that we cannot or do not wish to make that year's purchase.

Assuming the committee meets as scheduled and makes a recommendation on this item, it will go before the full council later in the evening.

Fair Street Update

Another item on the council agenda for Wednesday night is Alderman Siebers' resolution calling for rezoning of seven properties at the south end of Fair Street, where it dead ends between Franklin Street and College Avenue. His resolution was recommended for denial by a 6-0 vote at the City Plan Commission last week.

The heart of this dispute is a question about how these properties should have been assessed for recent utility work. The properties in question are single-family homes but several of them are on property zoned Central Business District (CBD), and properties carrying that zoning pay a larger portion of the cost for utility reconstruction. Regardless of how council decides to handle the recommendation regarding this resolution, we'll still have to take a second action at a later date in regards to their request to make an exception to the Special Assessment Policy. That request is scheduled to go before the Finance Committee next week.

This step remains important, though, as an indication that the properties are correctly zoned and were not overcharged in error. With that piece of information in hand, we can proceed with the latter request with more knowledge to work from.

Meanwhile, here are a pair of updates on items I mentioned last week that do not appear on this week's council agenda and will not be acted upon:

  • Tuesday's cancellation of the Municipal Services Committee meeting meant the committee did not get a chance to make a recommendation on a proposed change to the city's parking ramp policies removing free parking during snow emergencies. The committee will hold a special meeting this week but this item is not on their agenda and will likely be discussed at their next regularly-scheduled meeting on January 24.
  • Additionally, time constraints (the meeting is at 7 am and many of the volunteer members need to leave by 8 am to get to work) and another contentious item meant the Board of Health did not have much time to discuss a resolution regarding urban chickens at their meeting last Wednesday. I'm becoming concerned with this process: The Board only meets once monthly and has received presentations and discussions at four meetings now but still has not taken action on this item and will likely only have an informational discussion at their next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, February 8. If they don't take action at their next meeting, this item will have been under their jurisdiction for six months.
Again, no action will be taken on the previous two items this week.

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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