City of

District 15

Alder David Ahrens

Alder David Ahrens

Alder David Ahrens

Contact Information

Home Address:

4117 Major Ave.
Madison , WI 53716

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

Alder Ahrens’ Updates

Capital Budget: Pinney, Streets, Bridges and more

September 5, 2014 4:17 PM


The Capital Budget was submitted this week and it contains many projects important to the residents of the 15th District and the City as a whole. Here's a summary of some of the highlights contained in the document as well as some items that are missing:
• Pinney Library Replacement: It looks like the move for Pinney from its current cramped and hobbled location to a new facility at Royster Corners may finally be underway. An agreement between the City and the developer to buy a space has been reached. A new 20,000 sq ft. site will be constructed next year. $185,000 is budgeted for planning in 2015 and $8.8 million in 2016 from the Library Fund. In addition the developer, Ruedebusch has pledged $1.18 million to build the library as a donation. That leaves the neighborhood with the responsibility of raising $1,075,000 as our share. Spare change?
Cottage Grove Rd Improvements: Cottage Grove Rd. will see major improvements from a utility wire laden, pedestrian unfriendly, speedway into a new boulevard. This will include wider sidewalks, a pedestrian median strip, a bike lane and actual street parking on the north side. The cost of this project, which will include burying the wires, is $2.8 million.
Milwaukee Street Bridge @ Starkweather Creek: This bridge had emergency repairs last year. This year it will be entirely replaced. At the same time, engineers and neighbors are discussing improvements that can be made for the busy and troublesome intersection of Milwaukee and Fair Oaks. This project costs $2.4 million.
Bicycle and pedestrian projects: The budget dedicates $8 million to bike and pedestrian projects. The biggest bike project establishes a path between Powers Ave and Hwy 30. Much of the path follows Starkweather Creek. Note: most of the funds for this project is from the Goodman Foundation, hence its name, the Goodman Path. Also, of note, is an extension of the Capital City Trail so that it meets the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Cottage Grove.

Longer Term Projects:
Olbrich Gardens Renovation: The City has committed $2.5 million in 2017 and in 2018 to build a new visitors' center, education and work facility in the gardens. Olbrich Society is committed to raising the same amount for a total of $10 million. This does not include expansion of the gardens into the softball diamonds.
Buckeye Rd.: The budget includes funds for early design work on this troublesome road. The new road is slated to be widened and include parking on both sides of the street, bike lanes and wide sidewalks. Other elements include curb and gutter, street lighting and trees. Work will not begin for another three years but may begin earlier depending on federal funding.

Major City Items:
• Ash Borer Mitigation: $1.5 million is the down payment to deal with this pest. The treatment is expensive and additional staff will have to be hired to save over 20,000 trees that would otherwise be infected and die. As we know from the profusion of yellow dots on trees many are slated to be cut down.
• Buses: The city intends to replace 15 buses each year as a means of keeping mass transit a viable option throughout the city. The state government provides little assistance on mass transit and instead focuses nearly all of its funding on building new highways (such as the Beltline). At the same time, federal aid to keep urban mass transit alive is shrinking. Buses cost about a half-million dollars and as such we'll pay over $6 million for new buses this year.
• New Public Parking Garage on E. Wilson St. The City is committed to going forward with spending $21 million on reconstructing the government east ramp. Note, these funds come from the users of the ramps, meters and payers of parking fines.  The Parking Utility is supposed to be self-supporting. This new ramp may include a first-floor of retail stores with ramps above and below. This improves the look of the structure and can add revenue.
Other council members want to add 100+ building luxury apartments on top of the ramp and potentially give them TIF loans to do so. I will oppose that.
• Rebuilding the Madison Municipal Building: The city proposes to spend at least $30 million to reconstruct the "old post office", now the Municipal Building. We have already spent at least a half million on consultants. This is a national landmark but it remains to be seen whether this is a good use of a huge expenditure just for city offices. It's possible to build a new office building for a lot less someplace else downtown- say behind the current municipal building.
• Public Market: A total of $10 million ($1.75 million this year and the rest, next year) has been earmarked to build a Public Market at First St. and E. Washington Ave. There has been a lot of discussion of where it should be but not much about what it should be. We have very successful farmers' markets in the city and have not heard a convincing argument about why we need this at this time or why the city (i.e. you and me) should pay for it. I am also concerned that this might be overly ambitious and may wind up supporting this once it is built. We need careful thinking and a good dose of skepticism about this.

What's Not in the Budget:
• Rural to Urban Street Reconstruction: Once again this program has been cut. Why doesn't the Mayor understand that people who pay to live in the city do not want to drive down a country road?
• Biodigester: The original price for the biodigester (which would compost organic waste) was pretty high. A smaller model would have made it feasible and allow us to provide heat for city buildings and compost for area food producers. Many other cities have one and it is revenue-neutral.
NO CITY FINANCED HOTEL. It's not in the budget yet, but the Mayor is still wants the city to build a hotel (the last offer asked for $50 million in city funds). There is no reason why the city should build yet another hotel downtown with four being built in the last two years. It is risky, unfair to other businesses and a terrible waste of our money.

Next month, I'll review the Operating Budget. But first two other items of interest.
Transportation Planning Meeting:
The city is now engaged in a developing a "Master Transportation Plan". There are many issues and elements to consider: Where there be population changes in the next 20 years? What will be the role of a newly constructed Stoughton Rd? Should there be an enhanced role for public transportation? What consideration should be given to on-going climate change? What are your views on these and other transportation issues that will affect your neighborhood?
David Trowbridge is leading this planning process and will lead the discussion with neighborhood groups to inform us of the current process and to gather our views and information "from the ground level."
The meeting will be held at:
September 15, 2014
Messiah Lutheran Church sanctuary, 5202 Cottage Grove Road
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

City Assistance for Home-Buyers
The non-profit Madison Area Community Land Trust (MACLT) currently has funding (in partnership with the City of Madison) to help low-income homebuyers save up to $45,000 off the purchase price of essentially any single-family home listed for sale on the open real estate market in the City of Madison. To qualify, buyers must have an annual income under 80% County Median, have a credit score above 680, and a combined debt:income ratio not more that 40%. A table of 2014 upper income limits is below.
Our program is "buyer-initiated"; we work with eligible buyers to help them select a home that works for their budget and needs. Additionally, we are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who refers a buyer to us who successfully purchases a home through our program by October 31, 2014.
Feel free to contact:
1501 WILLIAMSON STREET | MADISON, WI 53703 | (608)280-0131


As always, I can be reached at

334 1156





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