Law Park

Campers and counselors with the Madison Unicyclists advanced summer camp pass Law Park along Lake Monona.

AMBER ARNOLD -- State Journal

Madison’s 2018 budget is coming into focus with the Finance Committee’s approval Monday of all 22 proposed amendments.

In all, the committee added $6.5 million in capital budget spending to Mayor Paul Soglin’s proposed $326.1 million capital budget and increased borrowing by $4.7 million for next year.

The revised $332.5 million budget could see further changes from the City Council. The mayor will propose an operating budget Oct. 3, and the City Council will make final changes to the capital and operating budgets on Nov. 13 and 14.

Continuing the debate over the extension of Jeffy Trail on the city’s southwest side, the committee approved an amendment from Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, to remove funds to extend the street from the budget.

Though the City Council previously voted against connecting the dead-end street with Raymond Road in August as part of the High Point-Raymond neighborhood development plan, Soglin included the $610,000 project in his proposed budget.

Compared to last year’s seven-hour meeting when funding for the public market was discussed, Monday’s discussion was relatively tame.

“This has got to be by far the earliest we have ever, ever done this,” Soglin said.

With approval of a $500,000 amendment, the Finance Committee committed to planning improvements in Law Park along Lake Monona. The amendment specifies that $200,000 would be appropriated in borrowing in 2018.

“We are officially embarking on a formal master plan study within our Parks Division to realize our potential of Law Park,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.

Improving Law Park is a goal in the Downtown Plan and emerged during study of the so-called hairball intersection at John Nolen Drive, East Wilson, South Blair and Williamson streets. Earlier this year, the Madison Community Foundation awarded the Madison Design Professional Workshop $27,500 to study the feasibility and costs of its Nolen Waterfront vision, which includes constructing a deck, improving the intersection and building a boathouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Let's recapture John Nolen’s great vision for Madison’s premier lakefront,” said David Mollenhoff, a Madison historian representing the workgroup.

The Finance Committee also approved three amendments to the Madison Police Department’s budget including $125,000 for surveillance cameras that would be installed throughout the city and $295,000 for six squad cars and equipment related to the new Midtown District Station.

The third amendment sponsored by Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, would budget $123,000 for 47 police body worn cameras and related equipment, training and overtime costs in a pilot program.

“I will not agree that there’s a sentiment, a consensus in the community that body worn cameras are not important,” Skidmore said. “I think that is something to be determined.”

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

Other alders felt the amendment was too premature, since the city is expecting the results of a year-long study of the police department from the OIR Group, a consulting group selected by the city last October.

Also among the adopted amendments was a $500,000 two-year feasibility study of an I-94 interchange near Sprecher Road and Milwaukee Street with the goal of supporting a project proposal to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

The committee also approved appropriate $250,000 in tax incremental financing to fund partially putting utility wires on Jenifer Street from Williamson to Few Streets underground in 2018 as a way to encourage planting larger canopy trees.

“We all know the importance of the canopy and here’s a way to protect the canopy that could offer a new way forward,” Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, said.

However, the amendment raised questions about the equity of Madison’s tax incremental financing policies and which neighborhoods have access to those funds.

“I think that (the policy) lacks clarity and that it does not allow for any other neighborhood in our city, for now, that’s not under a (Tax Increment District) to take advantage of this policy,” Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, said.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.