Alder David Ahrens
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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News and Opinion on Mayor's Proposed Capital Improvement Budget
News on Pinney Library
The Capital Budget proposed this morning by the Mayor delays action on the Pinney Library for at least a year. This raises a number of questions and beneath them are substantial problems. The funds for planning/design are delayed until 2015 with construction in 2016. The current lease expires in 2015. Will the city negotiate another lease with a building owner that now charges us twice the rent/sq.ft of any other library? Knowing that we want out of the lease but need another year puts us in a unfavorable bargaining position. Packing up the library and put it on hold for a year would be worse yet.
An additional problem is that the funds for designing and building a library are half of what the Library Board requested. Unlike many of the projects, this budget cuts the funds for this complex project to less than 3% of the construction. This is a small percent of the overall project when compared to other projects such as Central Library or the Madison Municipal Building.
Members of our community collected about 1,000 petitions in support of the library. These petitions were sent to the Mayor. Virtually everyone who was asked to sign gladly signed the petition. The support for a new library is broad across the community and deeply felt.
Questions: We need to have the planning/design work finished next year and to have a reasonable budget to hire architects and ensure that the community has a major role in the design of the library. How should we allocate space? What are the priorities? What can we do make this building sustainable? This will be a different library than the current Pinney. Let's make it our own.
I will work to amend the budget to fund planning for the library completed in 2014 and construction in 2015.
The budget allocates funds for re-designing and reconstructing Cottage Grove Rd., between Dempsey and Monona Dr. This will include new sidewalks, a grassy median strip for pedestrians, a bike lane and other improvements. The City and neighborhood associations will schedule a community meeting about this in October.
The funds for these improvements will come from a Tax Incremental District. This allows the city to spend money now that it will receive later in property taxes from the developer. This helps the developer to get the work done when they need it and for the city to have a source of revenue. By next summer, work at the site will be underway on new homes, streets and commercial development.
Garver Feed Mill
Earlier this year, engineering consultants completed a $250,000 study of the Garver Feed Mill (behind Olbrich Gardens). The conclusion of the 100+ page report was that it would take more than $5 million to stabilize the building. That is, to stop it from further falling down. They gave no estimate on the costs of getting it into sufficient condition to do something with it.
The Mayor proposes spending $1.85 million in this project and expects to raise an additional $1.85 million from private donors. The purpose for the large expenditure is to construct a new storage facility for the Gardens.
A Very Big Garage
The budget includes $2 million to plan for a $27 million downtown garage. (This is more than 6% of the cost as opposed to less than 3% for the library.) The garage will, in the end, cost many millions more. The $27 million is to pay for the 600 underground spaces. An additional 700 above- ground spaces will be built- most to accommodate a Very Big Hotel.
A Biodigester in our Future
The first small step to recycled bio-waste will be taken with the planning for the development of a biodigester and related equipment. In a few years, we'll have pick-up of bio- waste in the same way we have now have solid and recycled goods. The waste will be used to make compost which can be sold to farmers (and presumably gardeners) and the bio-gas (energy) from the composting process will be used to make electricity!
Redevelopment at Truax
Forty apartments will be re-constructed at Truax including eight units for chronically homeless individuals and families. The city received low-income tax credits for this purpose. In addition to this small initiative, the city will begin planning for a larger effort to build a large number of single-room occupancy (SRO) units in 2015.
The Mayor proposes $225,000,000 in capital improvements. Most of the funds will go to Streets improvement (none in this district), water utility, sewer utility, Fire Department, Madison Metro and Parks (in that order). The agencies requested less than that amount- $207,000,000. While some requests were substantially cut (largest was the library) others received more than they requested (Monona Terrace and Madison Metro).
This budget request will now be reviewed by the Council. I'd like to answer your questions and hear what you think.
You can find details related to the budget at: http://www.cityofmadison.com/finance/budget/2014/excapbudindex.cfm
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