Monday, January 9, 2017

What you may not know: Week of January 9

It's going to be a busy committee week for the Appleton Common Council. Here are some of the things on our agendas:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4:00 pm

On Monday afternoon the plan commission will be asked to weigh in on an issue that could set significant precedent for the future of special assessments and zoning in the city. In an effort to avoid spending 1000 words on the background, here are the bullet points:
  • The south end of N. Fair Street, a dead-end street extending off of W. Franklin downtown, received new utility infrastructure in 2016 and received special assessments for said work.
  • The properties along this portion of Fair Street are single-family homes, but the zoning for the properties are either Central Business District (CBD) or multifamily (R3), which is also reflected in the city's long-term plans for future development in this area.
  • Because special assessment rates are calculated due to property zoning and not actual use, the property owners along Fair Street were assessed at the CBD or R3 (higher) rates, instead of what single family properties on single family-zoned properties would have been charged.
Alderman Bill Siebers, who represents these properties, submitted a resolution in October calling for these properties to be rezoned to reflect their current use and also requested that their special assessments be retroactively adjusted to reflect single family zoning.

Today the Plan Commission will be asked to make a recommendation on the first of those two items, the zoning of the property. It's going to be an interesting discussion on the merits of zoning based on future intended use as compared to current usage.

Finance Committee, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

I believe I've written previously about some of the budget challenges created by previous purchasing decisions related to fire trucks. Our current fleet of trucks were mostly purchased around the same point in time, meaning they're all scheduled to come up for replacement in the same window. The city is currently scheduled to purchase "pumper" trucks in 2017, 2018 and 2019 in addition to a larger "reserve pumper" in 2020. The three pumpers currently cost around $625,000 each and the reserve pumper is closer to $800,000. 

This week both the Finance and Safety & Licensing Committees will be asked to make a recommendation on a request to order four trucks from Pierce Manufacturing to be delivered over the next four years. The prices would be set this year but subject to a 3% "Producer Price Index" increase each year. Even with that increase, packaging the four vehicles together would save the city around $80,000 as compared to purchasing the four separately.

I sit on both the Finance and Safety & Licensing Committees and will be interested to hear more about this agreement in both venues.

Municipal Services Committee, Tuesday, 6:30 pm

In 2016 the City of Appleton made a major change to our parking ramps, removing the previous flat-rate, pay-on-entry ramp parking fees and moving instead to a pay-on-exit, time-based ramp fee structure. On Tuesday the Municipal Services Committee will be asked to weigh in on the ramifications of one of that change's consequences.

In previous years it has been city policy to open the ramps up free of charge for parking during snow emergencies, to provide safe sheltered parking for downtown users while also keeping as many vehicles as possible off of the sides of the roads during snow removal. Unfortunately, our new fee structure makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to continue that practice. 

Staff is asking for the committee and council to approve the elimination of the Snow Emergency Ramp Parking Policy. If that happens, free parking in the ramp during snow emergencies would be eliminated and anyone planning to use the ramps in that situation would either have to pay for parking or find another alternative.

Board of Health, Wednesday, 7 am

For the third consecutive month the Board of Health has an information item on their agenda regarding the possibility of allowing chickens in the city. This month there is some hope that they will discuss the possible fee structure for initial inspection and ongoing licensing of properties with chickens. 

As has been the case in each of the last two months, this item is information-only and no official action will be taken. The earliest this item could come before the board for action is now Wednesday, February 8.

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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