Greetings, Neighbors! Thanks for joining me for another Full Council Week preview. We are now in the thick of things with budget season but regular meetings are still on the schedule. Here’s what you can expect this week:
Library Board – 4:30pm Board members will look to approve the September bill register and cash flow report and a small budget amendment. Then they will look to approve a rather large combined contract (multiple vendors) for more than $2.5M for furniture and shelving (including installation) for the new library. The budget includes $2.5M for new library furniture/shelving and the total up for approval is $2,505,288.75. The board will also hear the rationale for and look to approve a change to the library’s table of organization — a full-time librarian position to be removed in favor of a full-time library assistant position — for a predicted annual savings of just over $10,000.
City of Appleton Common Council – 7pm Since there are no mayoral proclamations this time around (yes, that’s right — none!), the ball gets rolling on this meeting of the full council with a public hearing regarding the rezoning (from Temporary Agricultural and R1 Single Family to C2 General Commercial) of the lot recently annexed into the city for Prospera Credit Union (just south of their branch/headquarters on Ballard Road). Thereafter, the council will take up the items that were discussed last week in committee meetings. Here are the highlights you might expect to be discussed separately:
- From the Municipal Services Committee: The Lawe Street truck route saga is back on the full council agenda. The last time talk of the resolution regarding keeping this truck route or doing away with it came up for council approval, it was referred back to this committee. In committee discussions last week, the resolution was moved back to the full council for a full denial. I have been in the camp of full denial of this resolution since it came up for committee and full council discussion last time… so I remain on board for a full denial of it again this week. Please see here, here, and here for more information on this resolution and let me know if you have any thoughts/feedback for me in this regard.Also from this committee comes a request from Appleton Downtown, Inc. for a free parking day for Small Business Saturday in November. I will be looking to ask about what kind of cost impact this request will have on the city’s parking utility which, as you know if you have been following this blog for a while, has been in a rather poor financial position (in need of ARPA funds for a bail out of sorts!). What are your thoughts on a free parking weekend? If you’re like me, you like the idea of increased downtown business traffic for Small Business Saturday but, at the same time, are concerned about the losses that the parking utility will take for such an event.
- From the Finance Committee: I did some follow up with Appleton Fire Department’s Battalion Chief of Fire Prevention and Public Education Derek Hensen regarding the proposed budget amendment for $37,400 for additional “fire protection coating” on the post-remodeling exposed steel beams at City Hall. It turns out that this coating (or some other covering of exposed steel) is required due to the warping and weakening of steel that can come with structural fires. This coating is a requirement of Wisconsin building code. I asked city staff whether there are any alternative methods of encasing these steel beams that would be less expensive for the city and it turns out that there really is no other solution. Since there are no alternatives to this coating, I will unfortunately have to vote in favor of the high price tag of this measure as there would be no other safe way around it.
- From the Community and Economic Development Committee: I was unable to attend this committee’s meeting last week when the action item to grant $79,999 to assist in updating the playground area at Columbus Elementary School came up for discussion. Read more about it here. I will be asking staff at the full council meeting what role the Appleton Area School District (AASD) has played and are expected to play (mostly regarding funding) to assist the proposed grantees of these dollars. I would expect that the city’s grant would not be the only funds to be contributed to the rehabilitation of an AASD school playground area. What are your thoughts in this regard?
- From the Utilities Committee: This committee approved a 7% rate increase for wastewater utility customers, effective 01/01/2024. I hate to see that an increased burden of fees continues to be placed on residents and taxpayers in the city. The original proposed rate increase for 2024 was 4%; but after review of the cash flow and debt management funding needs of the wastewater utility, staff recommends nearly double that. The good news is that this proposed rate increase raises the cost to the average rate payer about $16/year. And, even with the increase, Appleton’s wastewater rate will still be less than wastewater rates paid by neighboring communities. Those things make the vote for this rate increase more palatable… but still leave a bad taste in my mouth.
- From the Human Resources and Information Technology Committee: This committee voted to approve (and send these items on to the full council for final approval) the proposed new rates of pay for the elected positions of City Attorney and Mayor (commencing only after the upcoming 2024 elections for these positions). See here and here for more information on the proposed rates and the rationale behind these increases. As I mentioned last week, I feel that appropriate pay for these executive positions is an acceptable expense in the city budget. Surely, pay raises in these positions can be supported by cuts in other areas of the budget. (It is yet to be seen whether any such cuts are made, though!) I hope you agree. But if not, please let me know your thoughts on pay for these positions.
- From the Board of Health: A resolution regarding mental health was again discussed by this board after it was referred back at the last full council meeting. (I mentioned this resolution and my thoughts on it many times in the past few weeks’ blog posts — the most recent here.) What was particularly telling to me about this week’s board discussion of the resolution is that many members of the Board of Health stated that they felt strongly that they needed “to make a statement” about this issue and were therefore in agreement with the resolution — even after many of them admitted that the resolution is actionless and will do nothing to change how the city’s health department and the city’s policies are managed with regard to mental health!This board amended the resolution to include two things: 1) a restatement of the city’s already-approved-by-the-
common-council $1M of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for use in mental health protections and awareness and 2) that the clerk be directed to send this resolution to a particular local mental health organization — “NEW Mental Health Connection and its affiliated organizations.” These amendments do little to assuage me from voting to defeat this resolution altogether since they do nothing to give the resolution any substantive action. As I’ve stated in previous posts in this regard, I agree that mental health is a concern and requires care in city policy and the city’s health department. But this resolution does nothing to change or add to what is already being done and will continue to be done. What do you think?
As you can see, there are many items that are likely to be “re-discussed” in council this week. But after all of that, we move even closer to budget discussions and Budget Saturday (a full day’s discussion of the budget on Saturday, 10/28/2023). Here again is how you can give input and listen to the input of others on the 2024 City of Appleton Budget:
There will be a Public Listening Session on the 2024 budget on Tuesday, 10/17/2023, from 5pm to 7pm. I believe that it will be an online/conference call type of session. You should call 920 832-5814 to register to participate.
There will be a formal Public Hearing on the 2024 budget at City Hall on Wednesday, 11/01/2023 at 6pm. You are also asked to call to register for this hearing (though it will be in person and you are welcome to drop in at City Hall to attend). The number to call for this registration is 920 832-6443.
The official Budget Adoption meeting of the full City of Appleton Common Council is scheduled for Wednesday, 11/08/2023 at 6pm. This is a special session of the full council to be held in City Hall.
I’ll be asking budget questions and posting about them right here on this blog, so be sure to keep your eyes out for future posts. If you have any budget-specific questions in the meantime, please reach out to me.
Thank you for joining me here again this week. I look forward to hearing from you with your feedback or questions on anything mentioned above and/or anything else city business-related. Have a great rest of your week!