We’re back in Committee Meetings Week, Neighbors. But it will be an unusual one with the final budget adoption meeting scheduled for this week. Check out the details below and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Library Board (Personnel and Policy Committee) – 2pm This meeting looks to be a short one but may be longer than these board sub-committee members expect. The one item on the agenda for discussion is the Library Director’s 2023 performance evaluation. There is a notice in the agenda that this meeting may go into closed session if personnel matters are to be discussed.
Municipal Services Committee – 4:30pm This meeting will begin with a public hearing regarding the proposed street repaving projects for portions of Morrison Street and Perkins Street in 2025. This is largely a formality but some residents of the area may attend to ask questions or express any concerns they may have on the projects. After that, one action item is on the agenda for discussion and vote: a request for the approval of a contract for an appraisal group for some real estate acquisition for city projects scheduled for 2024. I assume the proposed acquisitions are small portions real estate for road rights-of-way; but that is not specified in the memo so I will be asking for more detail in this regard. The proposed contract is for $5,500 so the property acquisitions are likely not substantial.
Finance Committee – 5:30pm Not only will the members of the finance committee be busy with the final budget adoption later this week, but they have a separate meeting scheduled here on Monday for the discussion and potential approval of a couple of action items. First is a potential approval of some sole sourcing of furniture and workstation cabinets for the city’s Health Department to the tune of just over $250,000. The pricing or this furniture aligns with competitive pricing available through a government purchasing contract and much of this expense will be borne by a grant funding for the Health Department. (While the grant funds make this acquisition more palatable as it doesn’t directly cost City of Appleton property taxpayers… grant funds still often come from other taxing entities like the federal and state government which ultimately means that Appleton taxpayers pay.) The second action item on this committee’s agenda is a request to accept a WE Energies grant (meaning that somewhere along the line, WE Energies customers have paid for this) for about $75,000 for a water treatment plant project which will result in the city using less natural gas and electricity.
Parks and Recreation Committee – 6:15pm There are rate increases for Reid Golf Course on the table for this committee’s review and approval. Take a look at this document for the comparison of today’s rates and those proposed for next year and let me know if you have any qualms with the proposal. I don’t see anything egregious about the proposed new rates… though I lament that prices for everything are perpetually on the rise.
Fox Cities Transit Commission – 2:50pm This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.
Utilities Committee – 4:30pm The city has been informed of the ability to join in a class action lawsuit settlement from 3M and Dupont regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — in water supplies. Appleton has been fortunate not to have any significant levels of PFAS in our water supply to this point. But the future is, of course, unknown. Joining in this settlement would preclude the city from later legally requiring Dupont and/or 3M to remedy a PFAS situation which might arise in the future. As such, the City Attorney, the city’s Risk Manager, and the city’s Utilities Director are all recommending that this committee (and later the full council) vote to opt out of the class action lawsuit so as to preserve the city’s legal rights to potentially pursue these companies for settlement separately later. You can read more about this here. I trust the advice of these three and will vote to approve the opt out. Let me know if you have other thoughts or concerns on this.
Board of Health – 7am The lucky members of this committee get to get up early to attend this meeting only to discuss four information items. There are no action items on this committee’s agenda for this week. The information items include noise variances granted by the city’s health officer, the COVID-19 wastewater report (we’re still keeping track of this?!), the Q3 health department report, and the November 2023 health department newsletter. You can view these items here at your leisure… probably later in the day sometime.
Appleton Redevelopment Authority – 9am This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.
Appleton Redevelopment Authority Exhibition Center Advisory Committee – 11am Members of this committee will meet to be introduced to new members, listen to any public participation for those interested in or concerned about the status of the exhibition center, and to listen to presentations regarding Hilton and Fox Cities Exhibition Center updates and a review of tourism in general in the Fox Cities.
City Plan Commission – 3:30pm Due to the later scheduled budget adoption hearing, this meeting has been cancelled.
Human Resources and Information Technology Committee – 4:30pm Due to the later scheduled budget adoption hearing, this meeting has been cancelled.
Safety and Licensing Committee – 3:30pm Due to the later scheduled budget adoption hearing, this meeting has been cancelled.
City of Appleton Common Council – Special Session for the Adoption of the 2024 Executive Budget – 6pm As they do every year, the full council will meet in the “off week” to discuss and look to give final approval of the mayor’s proposed budget for the following year. Each year after Budget Saturday discussion (held last weekend) and the official public hearing regarding the proposed budget (held last Wednesday before the full council meeting), council members propose amendments to the following year’s budget. This year’s agenda for this meeting is much like last year’s in that there are only a few amendments proposed and only a couple of members of the council have proposed any amendments. The remaining members of the council are poised to vote for the mayor’s budget without any changes or improvements (a rubber stamp, if you will).
Your alderman intends to speak out again regarding the concerns over the mayor’s moving the Forestry Department from the General Fund (property tax payers) to an enterprise fund (Stormwater Utility Fund which is supported by stormwater rate payers) and how that move did not result in any relief for property tax payers. Read more about those concerns here.
I have also proposed three amendments to the mayor’s proposed budget:
- To halve the $100,000 “marketing and wayfinding signage” amount in the parking utility budget. I believe that much can still be done with half of the proposed amount. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that too much water has flown under the bridge since the decade-old study was done for the parking utility so $100,000 should not be wasted on the suggestions made at that time.
- To return the Common Council training budget to a reasonable amount — $115/city council district — which will equitably pay for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Local Government 101 training for each council member. If a council member has already attended this training, he/she may use those funds towards another training or conference of his/her choice. However, I believe that each district should equally be assessed the same amount of funding for this so as to not advantage or disadvantage any council members.
- To return the special assessment rate for new concrete street construction to 75% for 2024. The proposed 2024 budget would have new homeowners in new neighborhoods pay 100^% of the street construction special assessment for new concrete paving… but this rate has been — for many, many years — set at 75% of the cost. The proposed change would mean a rather substantial increase in the special assessment many of you are already budgeting for as you know that your streets will be paved in 2024. I prefer to see this rate raised in a stepped fashion — perhaps 85% in 2025 and then 100% in 2026 — so that new homeowners are not caught unaware and unprepared to pay perhaps thousands more in street construction special assessments in the next year. What are your thoughts on this?
There are two other amendments proposed. One would reduce the mayor’s training/conferences budget line by $5,000 and the mayor’s $3,000 budget for a “poet laureate” in 2024. The resulting $8,000 would allow the Appleton Police Department to purchase at least one more Flock public safety camera before the price for this camera goes up substantially (as was predicted by Flock in the city’s recent procurement of several of these cameras). The other would look to close the city’s Whitman Avenue yard waste site as its usage is a duplication of the services offered by the Outagamie County Holland Road waste site. This would save the city approximately $51,500 in costs to operate the Whitman Avenue site.
And as mentioned, no other amendments have been proposed as yet. There is still time for amendments to surface at the actual meeting, of course. But there is little expectation that any will. How do you feel about the majority of the common council wholesale approving the mayor’s proposed budget?
Community and Economic Development Committee – 6:30pm Due to the later scheduled budget adoption hearing, this meeting has been cancelled.
And there you have it, folks — everything you need to know to stay up-to-date on the City of Appleton government operations. As always, I look to you to share any feedback you might have on any of the above items. I look forward to hearing from you!
Have a great first full week of November 2023!