Alder David Ahrens
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Ahrens’ Updates
November 2017 District Update
The Beacon: A few weeks ago, the city opened our first comprehensive day-shelter for people who are homeless. Located at 615 E. Washington, The Beacon provides laundry and showers, telephones, a meal, housing and employment assistance, a mailing address and phones. Many agencies such as Community Action Coalition, United Way, etc. will have staff there to provide many of their services.
The Center is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM. It does not provide overnight shelter- which continues to be the greatest current need. But they also need volunteers to help in all aspects of the program and services. If you would like to help-even a few hours per week- you can contact The Beacon at TheBeacon@ccmadison.org
Reconstruction of Atwood Ave. Oct. 4th was the first Public Involvement Meeting concerning Atwood Avenue, which will be reconstructed from Cottage Grove Rd to S. Fair Oaks Ave. The project includes new pavement, curb and gutter, sidewalk, intersection improvements, parking areas, street lighting, storm sewer, sanitary sewers and water main.
In addition to the roadway improvements, the project will include a bike-pedestrian path that will go through the park. There will also be a new pedestrian bridge crossing of the Starkweather Creek parallel to the roadway bridge. Many concerns were raised about the proposal for some on-street parking, the lack of an on-street bike path and if the intersection at Walters St. should be turned into a round-about. These discussions will continue for some time because this project is now planned for the summer of 2021. For more info: http://www.cityofmadison.com/engineering/projects/atwood-avenue.
A few weeks after the meeting, I attended the Pedestrian-Bike-Motor Vehicle Commission, which reviews requests for traffic signs and lights. The purpose of my visit was to emphasize to the Commission and the Traffic Engineering Dept. that the most important improvement that could be made to Atwood Ave. is to have a stop light (or more) at Atwood and Oakridge and at other key crossing locations. Crossing the street from the Park to the Gardens requires a run across four lanes of traffic going 30-40 mph and can be terrifying.
"The Grove" Housing Complex: The MSP Co. presented a proposal for the construction of an apartment complex at the corner of Cottage Grove Rd. and Atwood Ave. This location is ideal for multi-family housing because it is on bus lines, major traffic routes that could support stores and use the land which now contains two blighted buildings- the old ReStore and Pinney Library.
The adjacent neighborhoods, which are comprised almost entirely of single-family homes, would remain as they are with all of the denser development on Cottage Grove including Royster Corners.
The builders hope to make the 129 apartment more affordable than most rentals in the area. All but 15 of the units would have rent based on the applicant's income and the number of bedrooms. For example, a family of three (parent and two kids) with an income of $38,000 could rent a two-bedroom apartment for $958/month. (Not cheap, but still a few hundred less than a comparable rental.) For two people with an income of $21,000 or less, would pay $480 for a one-bedroom unit. Fifteen units will be "market-rate" and as such, the same one-bedroom unit could cost about $1,100/month.
The larger building (5 floors) would face Cottage Grove Rd and include retail stores. The rear building would start at four floors but then be reduced to three floors when it is adjacent to the single-family homes behind it on Johns and Busse St. Most of the parking will be underground or on the premises and thus should minimize on-street parking. There will also be a green space between the 3 story apartment house and the homes on Johns St.
There was some discussion about the number of "low-income" tenants, how they will be screened and why they "are being put into our neighborhood." It was noted that the number of very low-income individuals and families is quite low. The developer said that in their other projects they get about two applications for each apartment and have the ability to chose those with good rental histories. He also said that single applicants with an income below $15,000 per year or $21,000 for two people are almost always elders living on Social Security or people who are completely disabled.
It was also noted to those who were concerned about "low-income people" moving into our neighborhood, that about 40% of the households in Eastmorland and Lake Edge would be income-eligible to live in the "affordable homes."
City Budget: Despite many hours of Council meetings and discussions about the budget, very few changes are actually made. The budget is proposed by the Mayor. This budget, like most others, is proposed with expenses and taxes that hover right at the state-imposed levy limit. He also chairs and appoints all of the members of the Committee that reviews the budget. Because the Mayor "budgets to the limit" the Council can cut programs/building projects, but can add very little because of the state-imposed limits.
When the budget is passed in two weeks, I predict that the Council will only add/subtract $1 million or less within the Operating Budget of about $300 million. Overall, the city's tax on the average home (assessed at $250K) will increase by about $65/year. This is a levy increase of 2.65%. (The School District requires a 3.52% levy increase for its $395 million budget.)
Nonetheless, in the Operating Budget, I proposed adding $400,000 to the Police Dept. budget. In the unlikely event that we get a federal grant to hire 15 more police we'll have the city funds ready to contribute our share. And if we don't get the grant we'll still be able to fund seven new positions. In Finance, the measure failed on a tie vote with the Mayor failing to support. I will propose this amendment again when the budget comes to the full Council.
I also moved to cut the travel budgets of many departments. The city spends about $1 million per year on employee travel. A disproportionate share is used by the Mayor and a handful of officials in a few departments. As I wrote in last month's blog, I will move to ensure that the city pays no more than one-third of the cost of the proposed Public Market. The Mayor has proposed that the city share should be increased to 58% in 2018. However, if we don't receive a big federal grant, our share will be closer to 100% which will require borrowing about $14 million.
Your Views on the Budget: If you want to comment on the budget in person, attend the special budget session of the Council on Monday, November 13 at 5:30 PM at City-County Building. You get 3-5 minutes to comment.
You can explore the budget at a very cool website: https://www.cityofmadison.com/budget/ If you would like to send an email to all of the Alders, write to email@example.com or to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Library Discussion: We have an opportunity to meet with the architects of the new Pinney Library and discuss what we want to use the space for (other than books); how much meeting space, children's activity, a not-so-quiet area, etc. The get-together is Nov. 9th at 6:30 PM at the Library.
Glendale Neighborhood Association: The semi-annual meeting of the GNA will be held at the Unity Church on Nov. 15th at 6:30 PM. They are hoping to have staff from the Parks Dept attend the meeting to discuss the future of the Golf Enterprise.
Burke Heights Neighborhood Association: Will also have its semi-annual meeting AND pot-luck this Saturday, Nov. 4 at noon. The meeting will be held in the very spacious garage at 729 Pulley Dr. There will be a discussion of the new Neighborhood Watch and other safety issues.
A last word: LEAVES Even if you have no sidewalk, keep the leaves on your property NOT IN THE STREET. Once in the street, they are easily washed into the storm sewer and then into the lake.
FACTOID: 40% of all of the phosphorus entering the lake from the city comes from our leaves.
Looks like a cold and windy but still Happy Halloween!
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