Fall is here! Our big beautiful trees mean lots and lots of raking. It's important that the storm drains are cleared of leaves to protect our lakes from additional phosphorus which results in greater algae growth and blooms. The City of Monona has the Adopt A Storm Drain program where residents commit to keeping a drain clear. My son Bodie and I (he's in the red shirt) clear our storm drains regularly. We've adopted three on our street and he LOVES doing this! I highly recommend it if you have kids that need something to do. If you're interested, CLICK THIS MAP to see if there's a drain near you that needs adopting (red dots need adopting). Each storm drain has a number. Call Brad Bruun at the City at 222-2525 or send him an email to signup. Leave a message with your name, address, phone number, and the storm drain number or the location of the drain you'd like to adopt.
Below is my monthly update on what's happening with the City.
I'd like to share a conversation I've been having with several residents who are struggling with overflowing recycling carts. As you know, our garbage pickup is weekly while the recycling pickup is bi-weekly. For some of us, that means our recycling cart is overflowing. You can order another recycling cart from Waste Management if you'd like. That will involve an additional fee and you'll contact Advanced Disposal directly at 251-7878.
Some residents asked if we could flip flop the garbage/recycling collection frequency. I have personally wondered this too as I have very little garbage but frequently have too much recycling. I contacted our public works director, Dan Stephany, and asked how adding more recycling pickup would impact the City's budget. Here is his response: If implemented, the 2021 estimated cost would be $139,000 for weekly recycling ($69,500 - currently). An additional $69,500. If tonnage actually goes up so will our processing costs, which is not included in the figure above. So, unfortunately, it's a costly solution for the City. As mentioned above, the best solution at this time is adding another recycling cart if you are struggling with overflowing recycling. If you'd like to dig into this further, please contact the Public Works Committee.
THE RISELING GROUP INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION-RESULTS ARE OUT
The City contracted with The Riseling Group to conduct an independent investigation of the June 2nd incident on Arrowhead Drive. On Wednesday, November 4, The Riseling Group released the results of their investigation. You can read the full report here. Keonte Furdge did file a lawsuit against the City so I am unable to comment. But, please know, I will keep you informed on the situation to the best of my ability. Additionally, the City is committed to handling this matter with transparency.
STONE BRIDGE PARK
If you receive the Herald-Independent, you likely saw the article on the front page regarding the redesign of Stone Bridge Park. As the newest member of the council, I take my responsibilities of being a good steward of your tax dollars very seriously. I am a parks lover through and through and I am a Dane County Parks Commissioner so I feel that goes without saying.
At the public input session for the redesign of Stone Bridge, I heard multiple residents state that they felt "less is more" at Stone Bridge and their hopes were for maintaining Stone Bridge as a "quiet meditative space." I felt that would be a wise approach as well given that we have two of the largest projects in Monona history on our doorstep—a public safety building and San Damiano. Plus, we're in the middle of a pandemic which has created a budget shortfall like we've never seen before according to our Finance Director at last week's budget meeting.
I thought the most prudent decision would be to push pause on the park redesign portion of the park and save the $335,000 for the aforementioned projects but it was clear that the project would move full steam ahead after the Parks & Rec Board voted unanimously to approve the project at full spend.
There are two budgets in play—public works and the parks department. Stormwater work must happen at the park because we are not meeting our compliance with Reach 64 and the Rock River Basin as it pertains to managing phosphorus and suspended solids. The public works budget for this portion of the park project is $408,500. We received a grant from Dane County for $206,150 to assist us with installing the underground pond system. Other grant funding may still come in from WDNR and Yahara WIN's phosphorus reduction grant. This piece must happen to keep our lakes healthy.
My first budget amendment came from gathering feedback from several regular park users. I proposed spending only $26,000 on two benches, repairing the pagoda, adding a bike rack and enhancing the signage and plantings around the sign. The council voted that amendment down 5-1.
At the next meeting, I revised my amendment to try and come to a compromise. I raised the amendment to a spend of $250,000 to include the walkway and many of the other components but excluding the limestone walls that will be built near the shore. Unfortunately, that amendment was also voted down 5-1.
So, the project will go forward at its full budget allotment of $763,500 and 10% overages. You can see the plan for Stone Bridge here.
Please know that I will continue to be fiscally astute when it comes to spending your tax dollars. This is a promise that I ran on and I fully intend to uphold throughout my term on the council.
Parking restrictions are popping up all over the City. I feel that making permanent land use decisions during a time when nothing is typical is questionable. Recently, Valorie Lane, St. Theresa Terrace, Wallace Ave., Shore Acres all saw alternate side parking restrictions implemented. Many of the residents were blind sided by the decision because a letter was sent in March stating that a meeting would happen in April to adopt the new ordinance. The Covid sky fell and the April meeting never took place. So many residents had no idea that was on the agenda in September. Two residents spoke out in opposition to the ordinance only because those affected were not notified other than the letter that was sent in March. I was the only alder who voted against the restrictions. I did so because of the lack of notice, making these decisions at this time seems unfair, making permanent changes when we need the streets cleared only a month a year for leaf pickup is necessary, and because one size does not fit all when it comes to parking. What I mean is that we should look block by block and determine the need for street parking, not just implement it street wide.
Another reason I voted no was because these regulations impacted apartment complexes that are home to many of our BIPOC residents. Their apartments only allow for one car per unit. It’s nobody’s fault today, it is what we inherited. But imagine working a long day at a hard job where you’re likely underpaid. You’re a single mom with young kids. You’ve picked them up after work and you’ve got a load of groceries and it’s 20 degrees out. Your parking lot is full when you get home and you have to park blocks away because all the the street parking is also full. I refused to be a part of any decision that would impose this on people. I also didn’t agree with the process that included no public engagement other than requiring people to email angry messages to City Council or attend a Council meeting in opposition.
A similar thing happened for Tonyawatha Trail but a resident was able to get the word out to his neighbors alerting them to the ordinance change. Those neighbors came out with strong oppositional voices. They were able to get the ordinance change to be put on hold for now. Tonyawatha Trail will see engineering/design in 2022 with construction in 2023. You can see this on page 52, of the 2021-2025 Capital Budget. Stay tuned to the Public Works Committee for updates.
I hope we can examine our process for these types of changes. One of my council colleagues responded to my opposition to the ordinance by stating, "This is the process!" But, I would argue that no process is not a process. I would like to see a process where we alert residents to changes well in advance before coming to City Council. I would like to ensure that residents have time to attend a committee meeting to voice their concerns prior to it coming to city council. I will continue to work towards us ramping up our public engagement and working with our residents when we're determining solutions that affect their daily lives. We caused a lot of stress and anxiety for people at a time when that’s the last thing anyone needs.
The 2021 executive budget will be voted on at the Nov. 16 Council meeting. We are $18,640 under the levy limit which is pretty tight so that needs to be watched closely. The Parks Department has projected a loss of $6,500 for the concession stand at Grand Crossing Park for 2021. It's fairly well known that I don't feel the City should be operating a business at the park. My preference would have been to have a public/private partnership where a private entity operates the business side of the park. The purchase of the $40,000 zamboni was a large expense in addition to the rink itself. We had a sizable loss at the concession stand in 2020 and the parks director hopes to make up for that in November and December. The ice rink is ready to go once the weather gets cold enough. Parks had hoped for a November 1 opening for the ice rink but it has been too warm so it's on stand by for now. I'll be asking what the losses were for 2020 in January and will share this once I know.
I requested a graph that illustrated expenditures by department so we could review each in comparison. Below is the graph presented by the finance director. Please note that this graph does not include the purchase of San Damiano since that purchase doesn't close until June 1, 2021.
PLAN COMMISSION UPDATES
This week's Herald Independent reported the WPS has listed one property for sale as it begins its facility master plan for its Monona campus. WPS has plans to lease its parking ramp. They have assured city officials that do not intend to leave Monona.
On Monday, November 9th, plan commission will have the first appearance by Devon Storage. Devon Storage wants to purchase ShopKo at South Towne Mall. Devon is a large national indoor storage company. Both of these items can be viewed in the plan commission packet. If you would like to make a public appearance at plan commission in regards to the purchase of the ShopKo space, click on the agenda above for instructions.
MONONA FIRE DEPARTMENT FOR THE WIN
On Saturday, November 7th, the organization I lead, Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison, partnered with Monona Fire Department and eight other area locations to collect donated bikes. Each year, FB4K collects donated bikes, spends the winter refurbishing them, then gives them to low income and diverse communities throughout Dane County. Our new fire chief, Jerry McMullen, was excited to partner with my organization as a bike donation station. The Fire Department collected a whopping 250 bikes during a three hour period! Verona Fire Department came in second with 200 bikes collected. Overall, 1,125 bikes were collected on Saturday. Huge shout out to Monona Fire Department! My volunteers had so much fun working that station with Jerry and his crew. If you haven't met Jerry yet, he would welcome a visit from you! Monona is in good hands under his leadership.
Here's what 1,125 bikes looks like! :)