Hey, folks! Here we are in the last full week of October (how?!) and another Committee Meetings Week in city government. This one looks to be a bit of a busy one and will end with the biggest committee meeting of the year — Budget Saturday for the Finance Committee. Below, you’ll find the regular rundown of what to expect this week, a brief description of Budget Saturday and the fun that that meeting will likely entail, then a short update on the library project and the city’s temporary library location (which I’m sure you’ve heard a bit about in the news lately).
Municipal Services – 4:30pm During the last full council meeting, I referred the request from Appleton Downtown, Inc. for free downtown parking on Small Business Saturday back to this committee for further discussion. I think it important that, should this request be granted without stipulations, the council fully understand the potential loss of revenue the city’s parking utility can expect for this event. And perhaps the discussion should yield a compromise of sorts… something to the effect of the city lifting the parking ramp gates for a period of time on that date in exchange for a flat fee that would be a portion of the revenues that the parking utility might otherwise realize during that time. The parking utility has many rules in place for other instances such as bagged meter events where parking would otherwise be charged but is not in exchange for some sort of flat fee. This event should probably not be treated any differently and should likely come with some rules/guidelines that would allow the city to recoup at least some of the revenue that might be lost on this date. Small businesses downtown will be looking for increased traffic for Small Business Saturday. So, too, should the city’s parking utility expect a good influx of revenue from increased traffic for this event. It’s only right that both those businesses and the parking utility have something to gain.
The committee will also review an appeal by a homeowner on West 6th Street who would like to extend his driveway to very nearly pave his entire front yard. City staff recommend not approving this appeal. I agree that this would be an unwelcome exception to the rules the city has against this sort of thing. I’m all for personal property freedoms; however, it seems that what this owner proposes will contribute to making his block look more like a parking lot than a residential neighborhood. There should be a balance between personal property rights and usage of personal property and what makes for an acceptable residential neighborhood look and feel. What are your thoughts on this?
And the last item on this committee’s agenda is a new resolution regarding overnight parking in the city. The author is proposing that the City of Appleton allow overnight on-street parking in the city with a permit system. I’m not sure as yet exactly how I feel about this proposal. I see both sides of the argument and the many challenges in this proposal. There is a more pronounced need for overnight on-street parking in the more densely populated downtown area. There is really only occasional need to request overnight on-street parking on the streets of the less densely populated District 13. City utility workers (street sweepers, utility workers, snowplows, and even police officers) find their overnight work less difficult with clear streets with no on-street parking. Clear streets at night feel safer as there is less chance of seeing strangers parked on the streets in front of our homes. The city would have to manage some sort of new permitting system to make this work efficiently and effectively. It seems to me that this resolution will require some city staff work to present to the committee and council a full plan to execute the requests of this resolution… so I think this item will likely be held for further discussion. What do you think about the prospects of overnight on-street parking with paid permits? What is your biggest concern in this regard?
Finance Committee – 5:30pm Members of this committee will be asked to approve a development agreement between the city and developer which includes the extension of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a soil stockpile on a portion of the developer’s land. They will then go over the proposed budgets for the Finance Department and the city’s risk management group.
Parks and Recreation Committee – 6:15pm This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.
Fox Cities Transit Commission – 2:50pm Commissioners will discuss the approval of payments for August and September 2023 and review the financial and ridership reports for those months as well. There is also a request on the table for consulting services from a consultant who helped Valley Transit submit an application for a federal grant last year (which was unsuccessful) for funds to help build a proposed Transit Center downtown. Local transit staff feel that contracting a new consultant for a new grant cycle would result in a much higher consulting expense and a steep learning curve. As such, they are asking that Valley Transit again contract with the same consultant in the 2024 federal grant application process. Let’s hope for success in 2024 as the plans for this new Transit Center seem to keep moving forward despite a lack of grant funding (see Appleton Redevelopment Authority below).
Utilities Committee – 4:30pm There are no action items for this committee; but they will meet to discuss the proposed 2024 budget for the Utilities Department.
Appleton Redevelopment Authority – 9am The last time this group met, an amendment to the offer for Valley Transit to purchase the property at 222 N Oneida Street was held and is now once again up for discussion and potential approval…. with a little added amended language to include a “first right of refusal” clause on the property. They are all still awaiting some soil bore testing results from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WiDNR) (see here for more on that)… surprise, surprise!
City Plan Commission – 3:30pm There is only one item on this commission’s agenda for the day: a request for a special use permit for outdoors sidewalk cafe service (including alcohol service) on the College Avenue amenity strip for the expanded Antojitos restaurant (was 204 E College Avenue and is now a combined 204 E and 206 E College Avenue).
Human Resources and Information Technology Committee – 4:30pm Committee members will be asked to discuss and potentially approve a new contract between the city and the Teamsters Union (for Valley Transit workers) for the 2024-2026 term. There look to be very few issues with the renewal contract and it includes the following wage increases for Valley Transit employees: 2024 – 3%, 2025 – 3%, 2026 – 2.5%.
To follow that discussion will be an open discussion regarding proposed 2025 aldermen salaries (for those serving as of April 2025, *not* for those aldermen currently serving unless they get reelected and are serving new terms in 2025). Appleton aldermen are currently paid $6,750/year. At that rate, this city pays very nearly the largest amount of alderman salary of other local comparable municipalities.
Yes, this is s small amount of pay. Yes, some aldermen do a lot more work than others. No, this is not a “living wage.” No, this is not a full-time job requiring a certain number of hours of work per day/week/month (except for meeting attendance). So… this is a difficult conversation. I do not feel that the city can support a larger salary for 15 aldermen. If any increase is proposed for 2025, I will have a hard time voting for it unless it’s a very small amount. Do you have any strong feelings in this regard? Please let me know your thoughts.
Safety and Licensing Committee – 5:30pm This meeting will kick off with a public hearing on the denial of a service (bartender’s) license for an applicant with multiple violations including a self-reported “possession of meth” charge in 2020. Discussion and likely approval of a number of other temporary liquor license requests will follow. The meeting will conclude with discussion on the proposed 2024 budgets for the city’s legal department (including the City Clerk’s office), the Appleton Police Department, and the Appleton Fire Department. The City Clerk will also make a formal announcement regarding the timeline for those wishing to run for alderman for the even-numbered districts in the City of Appleton. If you have friends in Districts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, or 14 who are interested in serving their neighbors as I work to serve District 13, please have them contact me for more information! I’m happy to help advise anyone wishing to do their best to serve their neighbors and the greater good in the City of Appleton.
Community and Economic Development Committee – 6:30pm There will be a public hearing at the start of this meeting to take public comment on what citizens propose the city should support with 2024 program year Community Development Block Grants. If you have thoughts or ideas in this regard, please attend this meeting (or if you cannot, please share them with me so that I can pass your ideas on to city staff!). There is a federal grant award estimate of $576,900 to be made available for programs within the city. Committee members will be asked to approve some small allocations of this proposed amount and the remaining award amounts will be open for other qualifying neighborhood development projects.
“Budget Saturday” Finance Committee – 8am As we do every year at this time, council members will convene for this special meeting of the Finance Committee to discuss the proposed 2024 budget and propose any amendments to it. Each budget section (loosely following the departmental structure of the city government) will be taken up separately… one by one. There will be a Q&A time for each section and any budget amendments that are ready to be proposed at that time will be presented. (There will be more time for budget amendments subsequent to this meeting but this is a “first shot” at amending the mayor’s proposed budget.) There is no predicted “end time” for this meeting as it may take all day for the entire budget to be combed through and discussed for possible tax savings, priority realignment, etc. You are welcome to drop in to hear discussions during this meeting any time during the day. We will be in council chambers for as long as it takes!
What’s Happening with the Appleton Public Library?
As you likely have already heard, the current temporary location of the Appleton Public Library — the former Best Buy building on the east side of town — will no longer be available for lease as of the end of this calendar year. The building owner has procured a lease with a new commercial tenant (a large national retailer) and as such, the library cannot remain in that location for much longer. This was an agreed upon term in the current lease document between the building owner and the city. No one suspected at the time of the last lease renewal that 1) there would be any “competition” for this commercial space before the library moved back downtown and 2) that the downtown library project would experience the delays that it did when the original plans were too grandiose for the budget.
The downtown library location will not be fully remodeled and ready for occupancy until late 2024. As such, the temporary library would have to either be closed completely until the downtown location would be available for occupancy or the temporary library would have to be relocated to another temporary location until it can move back to its permanent downtown home.
At this same time, the Thompson Center on Lourdes, the city’s not-for-profit organization to benefit adults aged 50+, has been looking to the city for some funding to support their programming and to help them move and reestablish location — from the current Saint Bernadette Church location to its newly leased location on East College Avenue (the former Habitat ReStore). Through many discussions and eventual approvals by the city’s Library Board and the common council, it was decided that the Thompson Center on Lourdes will do a cursory build out of their new location and sub-lease it to the city for a new temporary location for the library. The Thompson Center will stay in its Saint Bernadette Church location until the temporary library can again be homed in the downtown remodeled location. In exchange (and because their organization qualifies for and is a worthy candidate for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the city), the city will provide a $1M grant to the Thompson Center on Lourdes. These ARPA funds were very likely to be granted to the Thompson Center even before this agreement. So this is not a $1M “loss” for the city.
Two good things come out of this: the library will be able to continue operations in another temporary location until the downtown remodeling is complete and the Thompson Center on Lourdes will receive great financial support from the city with ARPA funds for their purposes of supporting the mental, physical, and emotional well being of the city’s aging population. A couple of negative things also come along with the deal, though: there will be a second move cost for the re-relocation of the temporary library to the tune of approximately $178,000 and the new temporary location has a bit less square footage than the current temporary library location so they will be a bit more cramped for space in the new temporary location.
None of this is ideal or was a part of the master plan for the remodel of the library. I was extremely disappointed when the library was relocated to the Best Buy location too early (before we had a real plan and confirmed budget/design for the library remodel project). That was a failure of the powers that be in city government (and was decided without need for council approval) and set us on this path… but I do think that the best has been made of a bad situation. I hope that this new temporary solution is the last band aid that will be needed in the current saga of the Appleton Public Library (though I’m not naive enough to think that that’s truly possible). How the city is going to pay for the final move of the library back downtown is another question yet to be answered. I suspect none of us will be pleased with the answer to it and I will likely not be able to vote to approve it. But we shall see what that discussion brings as we move forward from here.
What are your questions, concerns, and thoughts on this development? Send me your feedback and we can discuss it further. In fact, I’ll gladly take your feedback on anything mentioned above, anything city-government-related, anything that concerns you in your neighborhood. Thank you, as always, for allowing me to serve our neighborhoods and for reading these updates. It’s one of my goals to keep you as informed as I can about what our city government is doing. To that end, I hope that you are pleased.
Have a great week this week! Maybe I’ll see you at Budget Saturday…? 😉