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District 3

Alder Erik Paulson

Image of Alder Erik Paulson

Alder Erik Paulson

Contact Information

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 Paulson’s District 3 Question & Answer


Q: My neighbor has trash all over his/her yard.

A: Trash violates the property maintenance code.

  • Contact: Building Inspection Division, 266-4551
  • Online: Report Exterior Housing Problems. Select "Junk, Trash & Debris on Property" from the Complaint list.
  • Have ready: Address and description of the violation

Q: My trash wasn't picked up...

A: There could be a number of reasons why the trash wasn't picked up. The most common reason is that residents put their trash out after the collection vehicle already went down their street. Or, the material might not have been put out in accordance with collection rules.

Example 1: Residents wanting to dispose of an old refrigerator are required to purchase an appliance fee sticker and put it on the appliance. In this case, a Streets Division employee will attempt to contact the resident to provide correct disposal information.

Example 2: The resident might have put out a large item which was not collected with the other trash. Large items are typically collected after regular refuse is collected, often a day or two later.

Example 3: The refuse container might be overweight. In this case, a Streets Division employee will attempt to contact the resident to provide the correct disposal information.

In any of these examples, the citizen can call the Streets Division for more information.



Q: My neighbor has trees/shrubs hanging over into my yard. My fence is leaning over from the weight. How can I get him/her to cut them back?

A: This is a violation of the property code.

  • Contact: Building Inspection Division, 266-4551
  • Online: Report Exterior Housing Problems. Select "Junk, Trash & Debris on Property" from the Complaint list.
  • Have ready: Address and description of the violation

Q: Can I get some trees planted in the boulevard/on the terrace?

A: For trees in the boulevard, send a letter to the Parks Division. For trees on the terrace (the area between the sidewalk and the street), send a letter to the Forestry Section.

  • Contact: Parks Division Forestry Section
    Marla Eddy, City Forester
    1402 Wingra Creek Parkway, Madison, WI 53715

Q: What do I do about a damaged street tree?

A: Important numbers to have:

  • Contact: Parks Forestry Section, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., 266-4816
  • Police Dispatch, if the damage occurs after work hours, evenings, or weekends, 266-4275

Q: When do I call the Parks Forestry Section, private tree care specialist or arborist?

A: Street tree damage – A street tree is a tree between the sidewalk and the street. If these trees are damaged, it is the responsibility of the Parks Forestry Section.

  • Contact: Parks Forestry Section, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., 266-4816
  • Police Dispatch, if the damage occurs after work hours, evenings, or weekends, 266-4275

Private tree that falls onto public spaces such as sidewalk or street – Call the Parks Forestry Section. The workers will clean up only that which is in the public space (street or sidewalk). You may need to hire a private contractor to clean up the rest of the damage/tree on your own property.

  • Contact: Parks Forestry Section, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., 266-4816

Private tree that is on own property that is damaged and falls on private property – You will need to call a private contractor.

  • Trees on power lines – Please call Madison Gas & Electric
    Contact: Madison Gas & Electric, 24 hours a day, 252-7111

Q: Who is responsible for the trees in the area between the sidewalk and the curb?

A: This area is part of the "street right-of-way" and is often called the "outer terrace." The Forestry Section is responsible for planting, pruning and removing trees in the outer terrace.

Property owners who want to plant, maintain or remove trees in this area must apply for a permit from the Forestry Section. An inspector will visit the site, talk with the property owner and issue a permit when appropriate. Permits are free.

A variety of ordinances restrict what can be planted in the right-of-way. The Building Inspection Unit regulates shrubbery, brush, weeds and other plant material beyond trees that may be in the right-of-way. They also have ordinances that address trees and other plant material situated on private property that impact, impede or conflict with safe use of the right-of-way. Please call the Building Inspection Unit at 266-4551 with these types of concerns.

The Forestry Section also cares for large trees in City parks, but many of the small trees and shrubs in parks and on boulevards are maintained by the Parks Maintenance Section. 


Q: My neighbor has a car (a boat, a trailer) parked in his/her yard with "For Sale" signs on them.

A: Items parked and advertised for sale in a front yard are most likely a violation of the Zoning Code.
  • Call: Zoning and Signs Service, 266-4551
  • Have ready: Address and description of the violation

Q: Someone's car music is so loud, I can hear it in my house!

Contact: Madison Police Department non-emergency dispatch, 255-2345


Q: I'm worried about the quality of my tap water and wonder if I should be filtering it or drinking bottled water
A: Madison's tap water is safe to drink. Water Utility routine and extensive monitoring programs establish both the microbiological and chemical safety of the water. Information about drinking water quality is mailed to all customers annually and can be found on the Water Utility's website. Filtering your tap water or drinking bottled water is not necessary; however, the decision to use filtration or bottled water is a personal one. Contact the Water Utility's Water Quality Manager if you have specific water quality questions or concerns, would like more detailed information about the water quality in your area, would like a referral for water testing, or want information on filtration options.
Q: I have low water pressure. Can anything be done about it?

A: Low water pressure may be caused by a number of different factors, some of which could be internal to the home (such as a clogged filter or faucet aerator or a partially closed valve) and some of which may be due to City Water Utility operations. Call the Water Utility, and they can give you information based on your specific situation to determine the cause of the low pressure and what can be done to resolve it. If there is a sudden, dramatic drop in water pressure, report it immediately to the Water Utility emergency operator.
Q: Will I have to be home in order for the Water Utility to read the meter?

A: No. There is a register mounted on the outside of your home that is connected to the water meter and shows your water usage. Utility meter readers take their routine readings off the register so they do not need to get into the house.

Q: My water bill is much higher than normal, and we have not used an unusual amount of water. Do you know why the bill was so high this time?

A: First, you should check all the toilets in your home, especially any that may not be used often (such as in the basement) to see of any of them are running because of a leaky valve. This is the cause of about 98% of the Utility's high usage complaints. If you can't determine an obvious cause, call the Water Utility, and they may be able to figure out why it is high or provide a free inspection to locate the cause.
Q: Why does my water and sewer bill also have "landfill remediation" and "public fire protection" fees on it? I thought this kind of thing was covered by my taxes.

A: The City Council approved putting these fees on the utility bill as a way of lowering the amount individual taxpayers would need to pay for them. By placing them on the utility bill, the cost of these services is spread across a larger base because tax-exempt institutions must also pay a portion of the cost.

Q: I see Water Utility crews out flushing mains around the city. Why are they wasting so much water?

A: Normal maintenance of the pipes in the system requires periodic flushing to remove any accumulated sediments and iron and manganese. Flushing this material out of the pipes will minimize the likelihood of colored water in your neighborhood and help to provide you with clean, clear drinking water. Main flushing is a benefit to the system and is the most economical, effective means of cleaning the pipes. Water flushed from the hydrants is directed to the storm drain system and ends up supplementing our wetlands, streams, and lakes.

Q: During routine flushing, I noticed some leaves and sand being washed into the storm drains. Can't this be prevented?

A: The Water Utility works closely with the Streets Department in scheduling the routine flushing operations. The Water Utility also works closely with City Engineering to ensure that the drainage system stays as clean as possible. It is our intent to flush the mains after the streets have been swept, however sometimes scheduling conflicts make this difficult. If you notice a problem with the flushing, please notify the Water Utility.
Q: The water from my tap is discolored (red, brown or yellow). What is causing that, and is it safe to drink?

A: Reddish/brown water is caused when mineral deposits, usually iron and manganese, in the water mains are scoured off the pipe walls. This may happen if there is a main break in the area or if a hydrant in your neighborhood has been opened. The Water Utility routinely flushes the water mains throughout the system. This activity can also be the cause of short-term discolored water. The Water Utility does not recommend that you drink or cook with discolored water. Discolored water is typically a temporary problem and after the main is fixed or the flushing is over, running the tap for a few minutes should clear the line of any discolored water. If you have questions or concerns, you should call the Water Utility Water Quality Manager.

Q: My tap water smells like chlorine. Can anything be done to alleviate the odor?

A: Madison, like all public water systems, puts relatively low levels of chlorine into the drinking water to disinfect the water and guard against bacterial growth in the water system. Some individuals are particularly sensitive to this odor. Some find that keeping a pitcher of water in the refrigerator or adding a lemon slice for drinking helps disperse the chlorine odor before consumption.

Q: I have a lead service line. When will I have to replace it?

A: All lead services lines in the City will have to be replaced by the end of 2010, and the Water Utility is establishing schedules to ensure that all the work is completed on schedule. Schedules will vary, depending on your specific location and situation. The Water Utility is coordinating this work with street construction work and other utility projects. You should call the Water Utility to get more information about when you may be expected to replace your lead service line.
Q: There is water bubbling up in my/my neighbor's yard/terrace and running down the street. What should I do?

A: It sounds like a water main break. Call the Water Utility emergency operator immediately. A Water Utility emergency service vehicle will respond as quickly as possible, usually with an hour.
  • Contact: Water Utility Emergency Operator (on duty 24 hours), 266-4665
  • Have ready: Address and details of what is happening


Q: How do I get a trashcan in my neighborhood park?

A: Send a letter to the Parks Division.
  • Contact: Parks Division
    City-County Building, Room 104
    210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
    Madison, WI 53703

Q: How often is the grass mowed in Madison's parks?

A: The average mowing cycle is 10 to 14 days – in the best of conditions.

Q: How can we get more play equipment / trees / benches in our park?

A: Neighborhoods can utilize the People for Parks Matching Fund to help pay for additional play equipment / benches / trees in their park.
Contact: Parks Community Relations Coordinator, 266-5949

Q: When will the ice rinks be open? When can we ski?

A: Please remember that Mother Nature, not the Parks Division, decides when the outdoor ice-skating rinks and cross-country ski trails can open. For the equipment to safely prepare the rinks, we need 2 to 4 weeks of below freezing temperatures. To groom the ski trails, we need at least 4 inches of snow.

The Parks Division opens the rinks to the public at the earliest possible date. Some years it has been mid-December, and other years it has been the end of January before the rinks even opened. As soon as it is safe for the public to ski and skate, the Parks Division updates its website, its outgoing phone message, and alerts the media.  

Q: What do I do if my sewer backs up?

A: Call the City Engineering Division's Operations Section at (608) 266-4430. Personnel are available between the hours of:

7:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m., Monday - Friday, 
9:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

After 11 p.m. a Water Utility dispatcher will assist you, an emergency crew will be called in to respond to your call.

The emergency maintenance crew will first check the public sewer main. If the public main is blocked, the crew will remove the obstruction to restore service. The crew will notify the property owner or resident when service has been restored.

Q: My street wasn't plowed...

A: Call the Streets Division.
  • Contact: Residents on the east side (east of Park Street), 246-4532
  • Residents on the west side (west of Park Street), 266-4681
  • Online: Report Needed Snow Removal

Q: Our streets weren't plowed. Why weren't they? Whom do I call?

A: There could be many explanations depending on the street and the situation. It may be that the crews have not completed their plowing. It may be that the resident lives on a residential street that only gets plowed after there has been an accumulation of 3" or more. It may be that the street was plowed, but additional snow has fallen and has covered up the plow's work. Call the Streets Division.
  • Contact: Residents on the east side (east of Park Street), 246-4532
  • Residents on the west side (west of Park Street), 266-4681
  • Online: Report Needed Snow Removal

Q: It's Saturday morning. How do I get my street plowed?

A: In most cases, the Streets Division will have staff in their east and west offices dispatching snow fighting equipment and personnel. Call the Streets Division
  • Contact: Residents on the east side (east of Park Street), 246-4532
  • Residents on the west side (west of Park Street), 266-4681
  • Online: Report Needed Snow Removal


Q: There are potholes on my street...

A: Call the Streets Division.
  • Contact: Residents on the east side (east of Park Street), 246-4532
  • Residents on the west side (west of Park Street), 266-4681
  • Online: Report a Pothole

Q: Our street is in terrible shape – what can be done to fix it?

A: The customer should initially be referred to the Streets Division. The Streets Division performs minor repairs. If the street needs resurfacing or reconstruction, the customer will be informed of such and may be referred to the Engineering Division.
  • Contact: Residents on the east side (east of Park Street), 246-4532
  • Residents on the west side (west of Park Street), 266-4681
  • Online: Rreport A Problem. Select appropriate service from the list or select "General Requests" below the list.

Q: What exactly is the "outer terrace"?

A: This is the area between the curb and the property stakes. The land in this area is dedicated to public use and is considered city right-of-way. For most lots, the property stakes are in the lawn from eight to twelve inches beyond the inner edge of the sidewalk. Where there are no sidewalks, Forestry crews use plat maps and metal detectors to determine the front property line. City Forestry crews cannot work on private property even though a tree may encroach or overhang the right of way.

Q: There are speeding cars and big trucks cutting through on my street/speeding through the neighborhoods.
  • Contact: If your concern involves speeders, call the Madison Police Department Traffic Section (for ongoing problems), 266-4624
  • If you need immediate assistance (with a non-emergency incident), call Madison Police Department dispatch, 255-2345
  • You may wish to follow up with TEST (Traffic Enforcement Safety Team), 261-9687
    You may also wish to contact your area's district station:< >Central District (Dist. 2, 4, part of 5, 6, 8), 266-4945South District (Dist. 5, 10, 13, 14), 266-5938North District (Dist. 12, 17, 18), 243-5258West District (Dist. 1, 7, 9, 11, 19, 20), 288-6176East District (Dist. 3, 15, 16), 266-4778Police
Q: Some of the more frequently asked Transportation related questions and concerns are:
  • Speeding motorists.
  • Increased traffic volume.
  • Safety of children in the street or near citizens' homes.
  • Dangerous intersections.
  • Motorists not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Motorists parking their cars too close to intersections or driveways.
  • Semi trucks driving on residential streets.
  • Safety of children going to school.
  • Insufficient on-street parking for residents.
  • Need for additional pavement markings.

A: These concerns often lead to requests for specific traffic signs or changes in traffic signals. Traffic issues or concerns are most often symptomatic of a larger transportation problem in the area and addressing the identified symptom rarely solves the constituent's concern.

When reviewing requests, it is Traffic Engineering's goal to solve a problem in a manner that is beneficial to all citizens. For example, we would not wish to see a residential street problem addressed at the expense of creating another problem on a nearby residential street. When TE staff reviews these concerns, they are cautious to not create a situation less safe that currently exists. It is for these reasons that TE carefully reviews requests to change traffic control. The Traffic Engineering Division and the Police Department have established programs and materials to help address the more frequently raised citizen concerns. These include:
  • Neighborhood Speed Watch Program. This program provides electronic speed display boards to neighborhood volunteers to remind motorists to watch their speed and that they are driving through a neighborhood where people live.
  • Neighborhood Traffic Management Program: This program provides a mechanism for groups to work together with the City to help make decisions about how traffic management devices might be used in their neighborhoods and what benefits they might provide.
  • On-line brochures: The Traffic Engineering Division has brochures on the City web page addressing SPEED LIMIT signing, STOP signs, pedestrian information, SLOW-CHILDREN AT PLAY signs, Neighborhood Traffic Management Program and safety near schools. These brochures are also available as hard copies from the Traffic Engineering Division office.

It is important when receiving a request from citizens to have a clear understanding of what the underlying concerns are before determining an appropriate solution. Traffic Engineering staff use industry standards and federally approved guidelines to determine workable solutions. Changes are made after a careful engineering study is performed.