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All Things Appleton

All Things Appleton This page is devoted to Appleton, its politics, and its art. Washington DC is far away, but Appleton

Operating as usual

The Appleton Area School District Board of Education is meeting 11/28/2022 at 6PM.They will be voting on some curriculum...
11/28/2022

The Appleton Area School District Board of Education is meeting 11/28/2022 at 6PM.

They will be voting on some curriculum and materials updates for several classes.

The Board will also be receiving the scores for several monitoring reports including Health & Human Performance, Fine Arts, and World Languages. These reports appear to have only recently been established and are in their baseline year, the results of which will be used to compare future years.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey which is part of the Health and Human Performance report includes some notable results. In fall of 2021, 57% of AASD middle schoolers and 51% of AASD high schoolers demonstrated higher risks for mental health concerns, during that same time only 42% of middle schoolers and a mere 24% of high schoolers demonstrated “ability to self-manage ‘most of the time or always get emotional support when needed’”. [The wording in the report is not entirely clear, but the way it is presented makes it sound like less than 1/4th of high schoolers are able to self-regulate their emotions. One can only hope that isn’t actually what this report is stating.]

View full meeting details here: http://go.boarddocs.com/wi/aasd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=CJNS69710C75

The Board of Zoning Appeals met 11/21/2022. It was a pretty straightforward meeting in which Valley Packaging Inc was as...
11/27/2022

The Board of Zoning Appeals met 11/21/2022. It was a pretty straightforward meeting in which Valley Packaging Inc was asking for a variance to install a second ground sign on their property even though city code 23-522(a) only allows one ground sign per parcel. The Board ended up voting 4-0 to grant the variance.

I’ve prepared a full transcript of the meeting for your downloading pleasure: https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/26/board-of-zoning-appeals-approved-variance-allowing-valley-packaging-to-install-two-ground-signs-on-property/

Although nobody from Valley Packaging Inc itself appeared at the meeting, Eric Cates from Appleton Sign did come as their representative because he was working with Valley Packaging Inc to install the new signs. Although he was able to competently answer all sign-specific questions, he did not have full knowledge of Valley Packaging’s plans for traffic control and was not able to answer those questions as clearly as might have been desired, but that did not ultimately prevent the board from voting in favor of the variance.

The basic reason for wanting to install a second sign was that Valley Packaging had opened a new business inside their building called The Hub. Because of this new business, they needed to update their signs and make sure traffic was directed properly. They have two driveways so wanted to use one for trucks and buses and the other for Valley Packaging employees and visitors to The Hub. Separating pedestrians from large vehicle traffic would improve safety. I’ve added some annotations on the map/diagram the Board of Zoning Appeals was provided to more clearly show where the proposed signs are and which driveway is which.

The property actually already has two ground signs installed, one of which is old and will be replaced with a newer sign. This was because the property has two mailing addresses so they thought each mailing address could have its own sign and only found out after the fact that, regardless of the two mailing addresses, the entire property was only one parcel.

Due to the layout of the driveways, it didn’t seem feasible to install only one large with arrows telling drivers where to go. Particularly if a truck driver was approaching from the south, they might pass the driveway they were supposed to enter before they ever saw such a sign.

Board member Scott Engstrom ended up making a motion to approve the variance in light of the impact on drivers of not having a second sign. He also believed two signs would benefit the flow of traffic and would be in keeping with the spirit of the municipal code.

Section 23-522(a) of the municipal code was the applicable code which limited the property two only 1 ground sign. After some brief discussion, Mr. Engstrom ended up amending his motion to clarify that the variance for this property would allow two ground signs subject to the conditions in Section 23-522(b) of the municipal code which, for properties with two signs, limits the maximum size of those signs to one primary sign no larger than 118 square feet and one secondary sign no more than 32 square feet in size.

That restriction was not going to impact Valley Packaging’s plans because one sign was only 30 square feet and the other was going to be well below the 118 square foot maximum for the primary sign.

The board proceeded to vote 4-0 to approve the variance request, [and I'm sure that upon that vote, the entirety of Appleton breathed a sigh of relief that Valley Packaging is now able to legally install a second ground sign.]

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1051225&GUID=B5BA21FE-A96D-4CFA-BFDC-57328E0BB1A5

The Appleton Redevelopment Authority met 11/17/2022 and voted unanimously to proceed with selling 222 N Oneida Street (t...
11/26/2022

The Appleton Redevelopment Authority met 11/17/2022 and voted unanimously to proceed with selling 222 N Oneida Street (the former site of the Menn Law Firm building) to Valley Transit so that they can build a new and expanded mixed-use transit center.

I’ve prepared a transcript of the full meeting which includes the presentation the ARA received on the proposed development along with the Power Point slides that went along with the presentation.

This agreement is subject to 4 contingencies being met: https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/25/appleton-redevelopment-authority-approves-sales-of-former-menn-law-firm-site-to-valley-transit-with-contingencies-receives-presentation-on-valley-transits-vision-for-mixed-use-transit-center-an/

1) Valley Transit will set aside $50,000 for site remediation. Any amount not used for remediating could be applied to the purchase of the property or refunded. If remediation efforts cost more than $50,000, Valley Transit would have the option to terminate the offer to purchase.
2) Valley Transit will have permission to access the Property for geotechnical and similar testing to evaluate the property’s suitability for development. In the event such test results reveal the property is not suitable for the intended development, Valley Transit could rescind the offer.
3) The Federal Transit Administration must approve the purchase of the Property.
4) The Appleton Common Council must approve the purchase of the Property.

Valley Transit General Manager Ron McDonald shared a presentation about the project that they had been giving to “stakeholder groups”. This included some background on the project, their vision for the project, and their goals for the project.

They want to expand the transit center to accommodate future Valley Transit growth while supporting downtown redevelopment. They want to fund the project with federal grants that typically cover 80% of these sorts of projects with the other 20% being covered by a local match.

The development will be mixed-use with a transit center on the ground floor and some sort of private enterprise on the second floor. In the past, it has been somewhat up-in-the-air as to what will be on the top floor, but during this meeting General Manager McDonald said that it would be a residential facility. He went on to say that one of the important aspects of having a residential facility at that location was the proximity to the yellow parking ramp, and there were plans to install a skywalk from the parking ramp to the apartment complex.

They had reviewed 6 different sites including the current location and all 5 of the other sites were deemed inadequate for this project for various reasons including they were not publicly owned, did not have direct access to parking, or had additional costs associated with moving to those locations.

During their meetings with “stakeholders” [I really hate that term because it’s incredibly vague and can be made to apply to anyone whether or not they have an actual financial stake in the project] they sought input on things like facility features, downtown development, comfort and safety, and partnership opportunities. [Apparently, they also sought feedback on the ill-defined term “connections” which means who-knows-what. Additionally, of note, one of the presentation PowerPoint slides featured a truly stunning example of the sort of public art we might expect to see grace this new transit center. I’m sure the entire city will be thrilled.]

General Manager McDonald noted that they were using an online interactive survey and map to gather feedback from the public (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/7371e59b80a34caa9a9f2d235fa22fc4). [It sounds as if, unlike the public, “stakeholders” were already reached out to in person and proactively given presentations and asked for their thoughts on the project. But now that project is moving forward, the plebs are free to give their feedback.]

Marissa Downs, the chairperson of the Appleton Redevelopment Authority, asked some questions regarding what would happen should it turn out that it cost more than $50,000 to remediate the site and Valley Transit pulled out of the deal. What would happen if they had a partially cleaned up property and no buyer? Would they then have to complete site remediation?

City Economic Development Specialist Matt Rehbein did not have any definitive answers. He did not know if the ARA could hit the pause button on remediation as they have currently been able to do or if they would have to complete remediation.

ARA member Jim Van D**e asked if they had funds they could use to complete remediation. Mr. Rehbein responded that they had spent just over $8,000 already on the site, and the ARA currently had around $25,000 in its coffers that were not allocated at this point.

Community and Economic Development Director Karen Harkness said they would also have the right and responsibility to ask the Common Council for additional funds if needed. “. I don't think it's in anybody's best interest to leave this site unfinished and unusable. So, I think that there'll be support if Valley Transit wouldn't want to move on to finish the remediation on the site. I think that there would be Council support to be able to finish that.”

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1055279&GUID=36EAAC71-92E1-4CBD-A5D1-D27EF10C603D

11/24/2022

Because of the holiday, I won't be posting any updates.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃

The Finance Committee met 11/21/2022. The meeting was brief and the two action items were approve unanimously.I’ve prepa...
11/24/2022

The Finance Committee met 11/21/2022. The meeting was brief and the two action items were approve unanimously.

I’ve prepared a complete transcript of the meeting for download: https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/23/finance-committee-approves-sole-source-gis-contract-waste-water-treatment-plant-equipment-upgrades-project/

The request to approve a sole-source contract for a three-year license with ESRI for GIS services was approved with no discussion.

The other action item did garner some discussion. It was a request to award the Appleton Waste Water Treatment Plan Phase I Belt Filter Press Equipment Upgrades Project Base Bid with no Alternate Bids to Staab Construction in the amount of $5,063,000 with 15% contingency of $759,450 for a project total not to exceed $5,822,450, along with a budget amendment moving $100,000 from a sludge storage building addition project to this belt filter press equipment project.

Utilities Director Chris Shaw explained to the committee that this project pertained not to the liquid from the waste water treatment plant that entered the Fox River but, rather, to the solids portion of the facility. The solids go through digestion and are reduced in mass, but the end result is a product that needs to be dewatered.

The equipment in question was 30 years old and could not continue to be rebuilt.

They had to split this project into two phases due to the change in the bidding climate over the last year. Normally for a project of this size, they would see three or four bidders, but they only had two companies bid on this one.

Although the project was $100,000 over budget, they were able to take $100,000 from another project that had been completed earlier this year and come in underbudget and reallocate it to this project.

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1008716&GUID=BEE6DCED-3B48-409D-8F48-C532EFB8DF2E

The Municipal Services Committee met 11/21/2022. The open portion of the meeting was fairly brief lasting only around 15...
11/23/2022

The Municipal Services Committee met 11/21/2022. The open portion of the meeting was fairly brief lasting only around 15 minutes. All items were approved unanimously, some without any questions or discussion. Those items were:

*A request for a street occupancy permit for a construction site perimeter fence around the Merge apartment complex development through November 1, 2023
*A request to approve the Department of Public Works 2023 fee schedule
*A request to approve the Downtown Parking and Meter Bag Policy
*A request to approve the Outagamie County Northwest Landfill Expansion Agreement contingent upon approval by all municipalities.

I’ve prepared a transcript of the full discussion for your downloading pleasure: https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/22/municipal-services-committee-approves-all-agenda-items-alderperson-doran-raises-concerns-about-200000-parking-utility-deficit/

The main point of discussion was the parking utility revenues. Alderperson Chad Doran (District 15) was concerned that the city was down almost $200,000 for the year. He noted that a number of the Department of Public Works fees had not been updated recently and some had not been changed in over ten years. He wanted to make sure that they were at least covering the administrative costs to issue the permits.

Director of Public Works Danielle Block told him that Deputy Directors Buetow and Loper had reviewed the fees to ensure that administrative costs were covered.

She agreed that the parking ramp revenues were lagging behind where they had been prior to Covid. The 2023 fee schedule included a $5 increase to the monthly ramp permit cost. They estimated that that would increase revenue by $76,560.

Alderperson Doran was concerned that that was not enough of an increase given that they were already at least $200,000 behind for the year. Alderperson William Siebers (District 1) commented that fees could only be increased by so much before people would no longer use the parking ramps which would leave the city in an even bigger hole.

Director Block noted that the city’s parking ramp fees were in the middle for similar fees within the Fox Cities region, being neither the lowest nor the highest. They were going to continue monitoring the situation and perhaps make small incremental increases more often than they had in the past.

Alderperson Siebers thought that they should ask themselves why people weren’t using the ramps more because figuring out the answer to that question could help them determine if there were actions they could take.

Alderperson Doran wondered if the city should consider getting out of the parking ramp business and possibly sell the ramps to a private developer who could operate them more efficiently or cost effectively. [I did not get the impression he was wedded to that idea but was rather just trying to come up with an idea to consider.]

Alderperson Siebers noted that there were apartment complex developments being built that could potentially impact the use of the ramps and he thought the situation might look difference once that development was completed.

Alderperson Sheri Hartzheim (District 13) was not a member of the committee but she was in attendance. She wondered if it would be possible to work with the Finance Department to come up with a better way to present the Parking Utility Revenue Report. Although she was an accountant, she found the current report laying confusing. It was not clear if the numbers reported were Year-To-Date or only for the current month; additionally, deficits would typically be shown in brackets or red. It was a difficult to read report, and she hoped that they could figure out a better way to show what the numbers were.

[I’ve always found it a confusing report, but, not being an accountant, I figured the problem was with me not the report. I’m glad to hear that someone with actual accounting experience also finds it confusing.]

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1057322&GUID=633A64C4-9A33-4FB0-83F3-CC8C79370F91

I forgot to provide updated coronavirus numbers last week. Briefly stated, between 11/06/2022 and 11/12/2022 we had 52 c...
11/22/2022

I forgot to provide updated coronavirus numbers last week. Briefly stated, between 11/06/2022 and 11/12/2022 we had 52 confirmed cases and 12 probable cases for a total of 64. Appleton was at a “low” community level.

This most recent week of 11/13/2022 through 11/19/2022, per the Wisconsin DHS website, Appleton recorded 47 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3 probable cases for a total of 50. Although no deaths happened last week, one death was added to a previous week bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths in Appleton since the beginning of the pandemic to 168.

Outagamie, Calumet, and Winnebago counties are all in the “Low” Covid-19 Community Level as determined by the CDC’s metrics (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html) which means that Appleton, which straddles those three counties, is also in the “Low” category.

Appleton recorded its first case of coronavirus on 03/18/2020, so we are now on our third year of Covid tracking. The current 7-day running average of confirmed and probable cases is 7.14 as compared to 59.29 on this day last year, and 66.86 the year before. We had 50 total cases this last week, as compared to 429 on this week last year, and 463 the year before.

During the full 2020-21 cycle we had 96 total deaths with/from coronavirus as compared to 63 during the 2021-22 cycle. Right now, we have had 9 deaths since March 18, 2022, as compared to 27 deaths between March 18 and November 19 in 2021 and 47 in 2020.

At the end of the first-year cycle, the death rate for known cases of coronavirus was 1.20%. At the end of the second-year cycle, the death rate was down to 0.49%. Currently, in the third-year cycle from March 18 to November 19, the death rate for known cases of coronavirus is at 0.25%.

There are currently no WI county in the “High” level, 13 in the “Medium” level, and 59 counties in the “Low” level. (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/data.htm)

The fully vaccinated rates for “Medium” counties range from 42.2% to 74.2%. The “Low” counties had fully vaccinated rates ranging from 36.2% to 86.1%. (https://data.cdc.gov/Vaccinations/COVID-19-Vaccinations-in-the-United-States-County/8xkx-amqh)

The Board of Zoning Appeals is meeting 11/21/2022 at 7:30PM.After a couple of meetings with very full agendas, during th...
11/21/2022

The Board of Zoning Appeals is meeting 11/21/2022 at 7:30PM.

After a couple of meetings with very full agendas, during this meeting they will only be considering and voting on one variance request.

Valley Packaging at 110 N Kensington Drive would like to erect a second ground sign on their property, but section 23-522(a) of the Zoning Ordinance limits ground signs to one per parcel.

The property is a large parcel with two driveways that lead to two separate buildings. Per the questionnaire submitted by Valley Packaging, “A sign at each driveway would help in reducing confusions.” A second sign would also help improve pedestrian safety because without it trucks and buses do not know to use the designated driveway and would enter the property where there is pedestrian traffic.

City staff’s position is that while the large size of the lot makes it unique, the city code does not provide an exception for large lots. Additionally, “The applicant does have an alternative to place legal directional signs near the entrances according to Section 23-507(a)(4). Because of this, the application does not satisfy the criteria for a hardship.”

View full meeting details here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1051225&GUID=B5BA21FE-A96D-4CFA-BFDC-57328E0BB1A5

The Finance Committee is meeting 11/21/2022 at 5:30PM. The agenda is pretty light and does not appear to have any contro...
11/20/2022

The Finance Committee is meeting 11/21/2022 at 5:30PM. The agenda is pretty light and does not appear to have any controversial items on it.

The first action item is a request to award a waste water treatment plant project for $5.8 million.

The second action item is a request to approve a 3-year license renewal with ESRI to provide Geographic Information Systems services. This is a sole source contract. Community and Economic Development Director Karen Harkness submitted a memo to the committee explaining the reasons for the sole source contract. “Moving away from ESRI’s ArcGIS Enterprise system would decimate much of the city processes, applications, and city end users. We can confirm that the ArcGIS software is a sole source product, manufactured, sold, and distributed exclusively by ESRI. This sole source purchase should be likened to Appleton’s account with Microsoft Suite Products. Microsoft Word has been the standard for documentation for many years, just as ESRI’s ArcGIS has pioneered and lead the way in GIS since 1969 when the company was founded.”

Finally, the information items on the agenda consist of updates on two completed maintenance projects.

View full meeting details here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1008716&GUID=BEE6DCED-3B48-409D-8F48-C532EFB8DF2E

The Municipal Services Committee is meeting 11/21/2022 at 4:30PM.They will take up a request to install perimeter fencin...
11/20/2022

The Municipal Services Committee is meeting 11/21/2022 at 4:30PM.

They will take up a request to install perimeter fencing through November 1 of 2023 along the 100 blocks of Oneida Street and Washington Street. This is the location of the former Conway Hotel and the site of the Merge apartment complex development. (https://allthingsappleton.com/2021/08/31/common-council-approved-development-agreement-with-merge-llc-for-56-unit-apartment-building-near-library/)

They will also be voting on the Department of Public Works 2023 Fee Schedules and the Downtown Parking and Meter Bag Policy.

Their final action item is a vote on approving the Outagamie County Northwest Landfill Expansion Agreement. They will be entering into closed session to review the contract negotiations before reconvening into open session and voting.

As an information item, they will be reviewing the Parking Utility Revenue report for October 2022.

View full meeting details here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1057322&GUID=633A64C4-9A33-4FB0-83F3-CC8C79370F91

The Library Board met 11/15/2022. They received a few information items.The first was an update on the library project. ...
11/19/2022

The Library Board met 11/15/2022. They received a few information items.

The first was an update on the library project. Library Executive Director Colleen Rortvedt had submitted a memo which was basically a rehash of the information that had been presented to the Common Council on 11/02/2022. (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/07/common-council-receives-library-project-update-director-gazza-outlines-scope-reduction-plans/)

The square footage was going to have to be reduced because limiting the amount of excavation was a way to save a lot of money. They would also be shifting from using wood to using steel, which was an interesting change given that there were times during the design and development of the project that steel had been more expensive than wood.

The way the lighting was structured was going to be changed. A Library Board member expressed concern about that because of how dark some spaces were in the current building, but Director Rortvedt explained that the original design had included long, swooping, raceway-looking lights which were higher priced. That was being replaced with a more practical lighting scheme.

The children’s sunken garden was also not in the cards given the amount of excavation that it would entail and the staircases were going to be modified.

Director Rortvedt told the board, “Had none of the economic things that have been going on been going on, all of those things would have been totally within the budget. But we just have to be a little more shrewd now with what we can afford.”

Prior to the scaled down project going to bid, new concept drawings would be released for the community and Common Council to see.

The Friends of the Appleton Public Library was working on keeping donors informed about changes to make sure that they were still comfortable with what was going on and did not feel like they were giving to something that no longer looked like what they envisioned. Director Rortvadt also thought that the donors wanted to know that this project was being carried out in a fiscally responsible way and the city was doing its best to keep within the budget.

[Honestly, it’s a little frustrating to see just how much they have been able to cut when they were put in a position in which they absolutely needed to cut things. If they had been looking this hard at keeping costs down 5 years ago, the project would probably not have been as controversial and we could have gotten a larger building than we are now going to get and at a much more reasonable price than we are currently going to get. It really makes one wonder if cutting things in other areas is really as hard as the city claims or if there are tons of ways to save money that they simply aren’t looking at.]

The second information item the board received was an update on the city’s budget process. The budget which included the library project had been approved with no changes. There had not been any questions about the building project during the budget process, although there had been some indirect questions about the parking lot. The library was in charge of snow removal from the parking lot and the funds for that had been put into its budget. They were hoping for some good years in which they did not need to spend the full amount they had been funded.

The main questions about the library had been about why the library needed as much staff when they were operating in a smaller space. Those questions had given library staff the opportunity to explain that operating out of a temporary retrofitted Best Buy that is about a third of the normal library space was actually more complex and difficult than using their regular space.

The budget would be brought to the Library Board in December so that they could approve it. Although they did not have the authority to decide how much the community was taxed for the library, they did have to approve the money in order to have expenditure authority over it.

The third update they received was about the hiring process. They had recently conducted interviews for several positions and had sent out offers. Assistant Director Tasha Saecker told the board that the pool of candidates had shrunk since the summer. The quality of the candidates was still good, but the quantity had decreased substantially.

The fourth update pertained to the Friends / F. P. Young Scholarship. Because the Community Foundation had changed their distribution year cycle the library had decided that rather than doing a very small prorated scholarship which would only last for half the normal time, they decided to postpone that until next year at which point they could give a larger scholarship.

Finally, the board briefly reviewed the Friends of APL Grant Funded Program summary.

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=920203&GUID=4C38D9C3-C236-4710-BACD-F736BD3461FF

The Common Council met 11/16/2022. It was a very brief meeting with only two items separated out. The first was the spec...
11/19/2022

The Common Council met 11/16/2022. It was a very brief meeting with only two items separated out.

The first was the special use permit for the Holiday Gas station and carwash on the corner of Calumet and Schaefer Street that had been discussed and approved at the City Plan Commission meeting. (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/10/city-plan-commission-approves-special-use-permit-for-holiday-gas-station-on-calumet-street-after-hearing-concerns-from-neighboring-property-owner/) Alderperson Denise Fenton (District 6) requested that it be separated out, but none of the council members made and comments or had any questions about it. Alderperson Vered Meltzer (District 2) voted against it, but gave no indication what the reasons for that nay vote were.

The second item separated out was the Linwood Avenue street reconstruction design plan that had been discussed during the Municipal Services Committee meeting. (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/09/municipal-services-discusses-update-to-linwood-avenue-street-reconstruction-approves-lease-for-fence-on-glenhurst-avenue/) Alderperson Alex Schultz (District 9) separated it out in order to thank city staff for their responsiveness to the concerns raised by a business owner who was negatively affected by the original plan to remove all on-street parking and their willingness to make changes to the design to reduce that negative impact.

An item not separated out was the 2024 aldermanic salary. (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/11/15/human-resources-and-information-technology-committee-meeting-11-16-2022-will-vote-on-proposal-to-eliminate-aldermanic-parking-pass-benefit-and-increase-salary-by-7-1-for-2024/) This had been discussed and voted on during a special session of the Human Resources and Information Technology Committee but was not separated out for further discussion by the Common Council. Instead, they approved the recommendation from the committee along with the rest of the balance of the agenda.

Although the video and minutes of the Human Resources and Information Technology Committee’s special session have not been posted, per a note in the meeting details of the Common Council meeting, no changes were made to the 2024valdermanic salary.

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1001700&GUID=C9A9274E-137C-4D91-9D4E-A795BB3D20C5

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Appleton is currently in the “Low” Community Level for Covid-19 (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/04/11/coronavirus-numbers-for-04-03-2022-04-09-2022/), and masking is not mandated in any City of Appleton government buildings nor are masks mandated in Appleton Area School District buildings…except for Columbus Elementary School.

Columbus is currently above the 2% threshold for positive cases among students which, per AASD’s Covid rules, has prompted 2 weeks of mask wearing.

[To me, this illustrates the fundamentally inequitable nature of AASD’s current Covid guidelines and masking policy.]

Columbus is a very small school with only 127 students. The maximum number of Covid-positive students they can have at any given time without rising above that 2% threshold is 2. They have had 5 students test positive recently. That handful of students accounts for 3.38% of the student population, and Columbus is now in the midst of 14 days of mandatory masking even though the overall community Covid level as determined by the CDC is “Low” and few if any other organizations and businesses in Appleton are mandating masking.

There are three AASD elementary schools that have such low enrollments (https://wisedash.dpi.wi.gov/Dashboard/dashboard/18110) that they can only have 2 students at any given time who are positive for Covid before the school breaks the 2% threshold.

*Appleton Bilingual School – 119 students
*Appleton Montessori – 138 students
*Columbus – 127
The Municipal Services Committee met 04/11/2022. One of the information items on the agenda was a presentation of three possible design options for Soldier’s Square. The committee had spent some time during the 03/23/2022 meeting discussing Soldier’s Square, (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/03/26/municipal-services-committee-discusses-possible-redesign-of-soldiers-square-makes-no-decision-and-votes-on-nothing/) with the discussion revolving around the number of parking stalls it would be appropriate to remove and touching on the fact that a reconstruction of Soldier’s Square is not planned for the next 5 years. Even though the area is not listed in the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan, the committee was presented at the 04/11/2022 meeting with three possible designs as a way to at least give them something to think about. Two of the options removed no parking stalls and one would remove 11 stalls.

Director of Public Works Paula Vandehey explained that the first drawing in the packet was of Soldier’s Square as it currently exists. The first two options were ones that she came up with and the third option was one that Alderperson Alex Schultz (District 9) had created. [Alderperson Schultz is the Executive Director of Sculpture Valley which has partnered with “the Hearthstone Historic Home and Museum and the John H. Bradley VA clinic to raise funds for the revitalization effort [of Soldier’s Square] and support the goal of installing new memorials to honor all those who have served since WWII but have never been publicly recognized in our town square.” (https://www.sculpturevalley.com/soldiers-square-revitalization)]

The first option involved the fewest changes. The old parking structure had featured a long ramp or chute along the north side by which cars exited the structure. That chute had bumped out into Soldier’s Square. The new parking structure will not include that ramp. With it gone there was some additional room on the ground which would allow them to straighten out the sidewalk. Simply by straightening out the sidewalk, they would be able to create about 1,200 square feet of additional space of the monument without touching anything else in Soldier’s Square and without losing any parking stalls.

The second option took into account the fact that, with the ramp chute gone, the dumpster enclosure looked like it was now in the middle of Soldier’s Square. This new design moved it closer to the sidewalk so it wasn’t as prominent. That move would result in the loss of three parking stalls, but those three stalls could then be recreated in the spot where the dumpster had previously been located so there would be no net loss of parking stalls. This design would require some pavement and curb work and would result in about 1,5000 square feet of additional space for the monument.

The third option was designed by Alderperson Schultz. It would move the dumpster enclosure and then also eliminate 11 parking stalls which would give significant more space for the monument. She noted that there were currently 32 parking stalls in Soldier’s Square so the loss of 11 stalls would be substantial.

She also included a drawing that Alderperson Schultz had shared with her. [It’s a really low-quality scan so perhaps difficult to get a good idea of his vision for the square.]

She finished up by saying that normally they would hold a design hearing, but they hold a design hearing when there is an actual project. Right now, there is no funding and a Soldier’s Square reconstruction is not in the city’s 5-year CIP, so it seemed like it was a little early to have a design hearing. She was hoping that by providing these options she would at least be giving the committee something to think about.

Alderperson Katie Van Zeeland (District 5) said that she received a lot of questions regarding Soldier’s Square after a local news organization ran a story about it recently. People were confused about the parking ramp, whether it was public, how the City of Appleton worked with the YMCA, and what the ramp would be like going forward. She wondered if Director Vandehey could go over that.

Director Vandehey said that the ramp being built was being paid for completely by the YMCA, so it would be a private parking ramp. The Y was had indicated that, at least to start out, the ramp would not be open to the public. Director Vandehey thought that was because they wanted to make sure that they were serving their own customers first but that over time they might open it up to non-YMCA members. She said that, especially at night, they might sell some permits to people that live downtown since most of the YMCA’s customers would be in the ramp during the day. Someday they might even open it to the general public to park in during the day, but right now the plan was for it to be a private parking ramp owned and paid for by the YMCA for its customers.

Alderperson Van Zeeland asked if Director Vandehey could give her a little background. Was the history that the city built the original parking ramp and then the city took it over?

Director Vandehey answered that at one time the Soldier’s Square ramp was owned by the city then the YMCA purchased it from the city and took over all maintenance of the facility.
Vandehey: okay thank you.

Alderperson William Siebers (District 1) [who has been around for a long time] mentioned that they got a good deal and only had to pay $1 for the parking structure.

Alderperson Chad Doran (District 15) said that it looked like the main different between the third option and the first two options for the monument area was the addition of the Every Soldier’s Square bricks which were being sold by a private entity. (https://everysoldierssquare.org/) They would be losing some parking, but the only addition to the monument area would be the inclusion of the bricks.

Director Vandehey confirmed that was the case. Options 1 and 2 included green space that could be turned into a brick area instead of being greenspace. That would be decided as part of the design hearing.

Alderperson Doran asked if taking away some of the green space on Option 3 would help save a few more of those parking stalls.

Director Vandehey thought that doing that would make it look closer to Option 2.

Alderperson Denise Fenton (District 6) understood that they had not estimated the cost on any of the options, but she wondered if the different options were roughly equivalent in terms of cost.

Director Vandehey answered that they were not. The only cost for option 1 would be the new sidewalk. Options 2 and 3 would involve redoing the curb, removing curb, removing colored and stamped concrete, adding new curb and new colored and stamped concrete, and reconstructing the dumpster enclosure. There would be a significant cost increase moving from Option 1 to Options 2 or 3.

Alderperson Doran wondered if they went with Option 2 or 3 if the funds to pay for those added costs would come entirely from the city or if there would be an opportunity to potentially share costs with the private organization that wants to put the bricks in. He thought that was perhaps something for later discussion.

Director Vandehey thought that was a great question, but she didn’t know the answer and reiterated that there was nothing in the city’s 5-year CIP regarding Soldier’s Square.

Alderperson Van Zeeland asked if there were any concerns about the materials that were being sold by the private organization. Were the bricks even feasible to be used and would there be a way of building this square with different materials that would make it less expensive or easier to maintain.

Director Vandehey said that if they talked to herself or to Dean Gazza, the Director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities, they would not recommend using bricks. The city has used bricks on other projects, but they are very high maintenance and easily move and become tripping hazards. They would recommend finding a different method to raise funds such as by having a plaque with names on it. But she said that was just staff’s perspective on it.

Alderperson Van Zeeland thought it was an important conversation to have and something they should all keep in mind given how preliminary everything was.

Alderperson Brad Firkus (District 3) thought the three options helped give at least some visual of what was possible in the space and how the different orientations and dimensions worked. He thanked her for the images.

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=954595&GUID=A2997A22-ADF2-49EE-B7C1-BDB5AF5B0637
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