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
Budget, Judge Doyle Sq, Moving On and More
Despite dozens of hours of meetings over two months, there were very minor differences between the Mayor's initial proposal and what was finally approved by the Council. There were, however, differences from the budget we passed last year. This year, employees received a 2 % raise (last year, they got 1%) but they will also pay much more for their health insurance.
Other items included in this year's budget include the addition of a few specialized police officers, a new violence prevention program, and the first phase of a program aimed at preventing some of the extreme flooding that occurred on the Madison's Westside this summer.
The capital budget still includes millions for the Public Market and for the Judge Doyle Square project (more on that below). Other big items include making badly needed repairs to the bus barn on East Wash. (this will take years and cost more than $20 million); finishing construction of the Pinney Library (yay!); and completing the vehicle repair facility at the old Cub Foods site.
The additional tax bite for this budget requires an increase of 2.8%. While the increase is at the rate of inflation, much of this is accomplished through a record level of borrowing.
Judge Doyle Square:
The other major issue before the city council in November has been the city's on-going dilemma over the fate of the Judge Doyle Sq. project and more specifically, our relationship with the developer, Beitler Co.
Over the last few weeks, the Mayor has attempted to convince the Council and the public that we should give $600,000 to this company. There has been no consistent or plausible reason given for this payment.
This payment would be in addition to $1,500,000 paid as a "developer's fee" a year ago. Earlier in the year, when Beitler Co. said that they had underestimated the cost of the apartment building by 50%, the city stepped in and agreed to build the foundation for the building- FOR FREE- along with the first three floors. The foundation and floors will cost $11,200,000, give or take a million. Note: The city will retain revenue from these three floors.
On top of this is another half million dollars spent in consulting fees, outside and inside lawyers, staff time, etc. So, that's over $13,000,000 on this project- most of it to this developer and the remainder for two more floors of parking garage and one floor of retail that we had not planned on building..
Now, the proposal is to give another $600,000 under the premise that things will go smoothly from now on.
The Council voted it down on Oct. 30 and then was "reconsidered" on Nov. 13 when the Council voted against it again by a vote of 13-5. Last Tuesday, the Mayor asked for a third vote which will take place in January.
Finally, it should be noted that the millions of dollars described above are taxes and fees paid by you and me and our neighbors. These are dollars that could be used for essential services such as to buy an ambulance for the southeast section of the city, repairing a road or testing drinking water.
Candidates Needed for Common Council Seat:
After some consternation, I have decided not to run again for Alder. It has been an honor to represent the district and I have worked hard to merit that support. At times, it has been frustrating (see the above notes) but also very rewarding due to the opportunity both to learn so much and to serve constituents. It has also been heartening to work with so many people who are committed to improving their neighborhoods.
If you are interested in becoming an Alder, I suggest you review the web page developed by a fellow Alder, Keith Furman. http://www.cityofmadison.com/Council/councilMembers/runForCouncil.cfm
Pinney Library Temporarily Closed:
While the Ace Hardware site is reconstructed, Pinney Library will be closed through the month of December (and possibly longer). Items you may have reserved will be available at Hawthorne Library on E. Wash.
There will be a "farewell" party hosted by Friends of Pinney Library on the last day of service, Nov. 30, from 5-8 p.m. with desserts and entertainment provided.
Residential Water Rates Increased by 36%-Utility Cited for "Poor Management":
In an unusually critical decision by the Public Service Commission, the construction and financial management of the Madison Water Utility was described as being an "example of poor management." In order to address many of the chronic problems facing the utility, the Commission raised the overall rates by 30%. However, residential rates will increase by 36%.
The Commission cited numerous examples in which the Utility had repeatedly allowed massive cost overruns despite warnings from the PSC. This included the construction of the new Paterson St. Operations Center. The authorized expenditure was $12.9 million but actually cost $16.5 million. Also, the construction of Well 31 was authorized for $5.9 million but cost $8.1 million.
In its decision, the Commission took the extraordinary step of requiring the Water Utility managers to report every three months on the steps that they are taking to correct the problems and properly manage the finances of the operation.
In September, the Water Utility Board (of which I am a member) voted to recommend that the City not renew the contract for the General Manager. This action was taken as a result of over-spending $10 million on a $35 million budget. The Mayor rejected the recommendation of the Board, renewed the Manager's contract and gave him a $6,000 per year raise.
Madison Municipal Building Restored - Grand Opening Celebration
Mark your calendars, and join your friends and neighbors at the historically renovated Madison Municipal Building on MLK Dr. (Also known as "the Old Post Office.")
From 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 8, there will be behind-the-scenes-tours, music and dance, food carts, caterers, screen-printing booth, and art, video art, and participatory art projects. Bring the family and take advantage of this living history/oral history project, poetry booth and events for children.
Stormwater and Sewer Water:
There is an interesting and informative newsletter published by City Engineering, "Waterways." This issue includes articles on the Flood of 2018, safeguarding your sewer lateral, reducing winter use of salt and other items. You can access it at
Changes to Bus Routes 37 & 38:
As reported previously, there are major changes to Route 37 and 38 buses. There should be information on the changes available on those buses.
A public hearing on these proposals will be held at the Transportation Commission meeting of Wednesday, November 28 @ 6 p.m. in Room 354 of the City-County Building.
Bus Rapid Transit
The city has been engaged in a long-term plan in public transportation called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). These require "priority" lanes, the ability to control traffic signals and many fewer stops. Using this technology, the BRT should be able to travel from East Towne to downtown as quickly as a private car.
There will be a public meeting to learn about the project on Wednesday, Dec. 12th from 6-8 PM in room 302 of the Central Library. More information is at:
As always, please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns on city services or policies. Or would like to discuss an interest in running for Alder.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 334-1156.
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