Monday, August 7, 2017

What you may not know: Week of August 7

It's been a quiet few weeks for the Appleton Common Council, hence my lack of posts: In an effort to maintain a solid signal-to-noise ratio I make an effort not to waste your time or mine producing blog posts on weeks where there isn't much of large public interest going on.

With that said, this week projects to be a busy committee week for the council. Here are some of the meetings of interest:

Municipal Services Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

This afternoon the Municipal Services Committee will be asked to consider a change to downtown parking rates that could have a significant impact on the traffic ramp users experience when trying to exit downtown following events at the Performing Arts Center.

The city's pay-on-exit parking ramp systems can create long queues of users when large groups of people, including many unfamiliar with the parking ramp infrastructure, all leave the PAC at the same time following a performance or other event. Staff has asked the committee to approve a special parking rate and procedure that would allow ramp users to pay a flat fee on entry when going into the ramp for selected special events, which would hopefully allow pre-paid users to exit the ramp in a more timely fashion and avoid long delays.

In addition, today the Committee will discuss for the first time a resolution submitted by Alderperson Vered Meltzer calling for the city to waive street occupancy fees for businesses wishing to install bike racks in the street right of way. I'm looking forward to learning more about how this could work.

Finance Committee, Monday, 5:30 pm

The Finance Committee has a very busy agenda this week. First, we are expected to receive a final briefing and recommend approval for the city's already-budgeted 2017 borrowing package, which will include just under $14 million in General Obligation Notes (to be repaid by property tax dollars) and $5 million in Storm Water Revenue Bonds (to be repaid by the Stormwater Utility). We also anticipate issuing Water Revenue Bonds (to be repaid by the Water Utility) at a later date this year. These bond issuances are a routine part of our budgeting process, as the time has come to borrow money for capital projects included in the 2017 budget.

Additionally, this week the committee is expected to recommend approval of relocation orders for two properties adjacent to the city's "blue" parking ramp, the ramp immediately adjacent to City Hall. That ramp has reached the end of its usable life and is expected to be demolished in the years ahead, but it shares walls with two neighboring buildings and cannot be torn down independently from those structures. As such, those buildings will also need to be vacated to make way for the project.

Furthermore, this week the Finance Committee is expected to review, potentially amend and make a recommendation related to the city's 2018 special assessment policy. A quick recap of how we arrived here:

  • Special assessments for reconstruction of existing, permanent city streets were eliminated a few years ago when the city's Vehicle Registration Fee (aka "Wheel Tax") was enacted. Revenue from the fee is used to replace the expenses the city used to recover via special assessments in these cases.
  • Special assessments remain in place, however, for utility work, new streets and the transition from temporary to permanent streets. 
This week we will discuss items related to the latter policy and attempt to establish a policy that will allow us to budget for anticipated 2018 projects.

Finally, this week the committee also has an information item related to the process of moving forward for the Appleton Public Library. Last month the Library Board approved a measure calling for the board and the city to work together to explore the possibility of a mixed-use development to include a new library. While we're still very early in this process, there are some jurisdictional challenges and indistinct boundaries between roles that likely need to be ironed out before we can proceed. While that discussion will take place this week, this is only an information item on the agenda and no official action related to the library will be taken at this meeting.

Joint Review Board, Wednesday, 1 pm

In my last update I mentioned proposed plans for the city to create two new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, our 11th and 12th such districts in the city. The districts would be generally located on the east and west ends of downtown. Follow that previous link for more details on how TIF financing works. 

The Joint Review Board is made up of representatives from the four taxing entities (the city, Outagamie County, the Appleton Area School District and Fox Valley Technical College) that would be impacted by the development of one or more new TIF districts. In all proposed cases, the taxing entities would not lose revenue but would see their revenue from properties within the TIF district frozen while the "increment," the additional taxes collected on these properties due to their increase in value, is used to repay the borrowing done to create needed improvements in these areas. 

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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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