Funding a public market will remain in Mayor Paul Soglin’s proposed capital budget after two amendments calling to delay funding failed at a city finance committee meeting Monday.
Soglin and City Council members have proposed 34 amendments to the mayor’s proposed $329.7 million capital budget. In addition to the $13 million public market, the city’s executive and legislative branches are at odds again over major capital budget items that also include a $10.8 million Midtown District police station and a $6 million Fire Department employee development center and EMS station.
Slated for the corner of First Street and East Washington Avenue, the public market aims to anchor a broader “food innovation corridor” stretching to the city’s north side, according to the city’s plan. Once built, it is proposed to be a year-round, indoor, multi-use market that also has the potential to jump start small food-based businesses.
Colin Murray, Dane Buy Local executive director and member of Friends of the Public Market Committee, said delaying market funding would have slowed down economic success of the area.
“(The market) really becomes the cornerstone ... for development on the near east side and heading toward the north side of Madison,” Murray said.
The mayor’s proposed budget included $1.2 million for the market in 2017. Related budget amendments proposed to eliminate the project from the 2017 Capital Improvement Plan and another suggested moving the $1.2 million costs to 2020 and hold off on borrowing until the anticipated matching federal and private contributions, totaling $8,750,000, are realized.
No other funding sources have been acquired at this stage of the project, Dan Kennelly, the city’s point person for the public market, said.
Soglin was blunt about the financial effects should the project fail.
“If we go forward with this project and at some time in the next couple of years it should totally fail, we will have lost at least $1 million, if not more,” Soglin said.
Ald. Sara Eskrich, District 13, who proposed one of the amendments, emphasized maintaining the city’s commitment to core services, such as public safety, infrastructure and trash removal should not be compromised at the expense of new projects.
“I just believe that this appropriation is too large when we’re looking at the rest of our our priorities in the budget,” Eskrich said.
Ald. Amanda Hall, District 3, argued it is just as important to prioritize visionary projects, while Ald. Tim Gruber, District 11, emphasized the public market’s potential effect on job creation.
Kennelly reported an economic impact analysis estimated 200 jobs would be created regionally and 212 individual small businesses have expressed interested in participating in the market.
Midtown police station
Soglin and the council have consistently disagreed over when the new Midtown Police District station, which is meant to ease pressure on the Madison Police Department’s South and West District stations, should be built.
A year ago, the City Council approved a budget in a 20-0 vote that included construction for Midtown in 2016, to be opened in 2017, and the mayor's budget pushes construction to 2018.
On Monday, the Board of Estimates approved an amendment providing construction funds in 2017 and required updates on the project timeline at the first City Council meeting of the month.
Alders at the meeting expressed frustration about the lack of communication on the progress of the new station and the politicization of the Midtown project.
“We have to rebuild the trust we feel in this body,” Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney said, District 1, said.
Part of the discussion turned personal, showing the divide in trust between some council members and Soglin.
At one point, Soglin asked city engineers Rob Phillips and Jeanne Hoffman to explain to the Board of Estimates the content and impetus for a letter he sent to Chief Mike Koval in June. In the letter, Soglin directed the delay of construction but not of the design phase and all the necessary steps between planning and breaking ground.
"I would defend each and every one of you, but I wouldn’t lie to you." Phillips said, addressing doubts about the Midtown timeline.
New southeast side fire station
The mayor’s proposed budget pushed off a new fire station on the southeast side another two years, but the finance committee approved an amendment to add add $5,500,000 in 2017 and $500,000 in 2018.
“Basic and essential services are not being afforded residents in the city of Madison in equal measure,” Ald. Denise DeMarb, District 16, said.
Soglin recommended waiting two years to get a better sense of the best location for a new station, especially in relationship to neighboring departments such as Fitchburg and Monona.
“Given the fact that we’ve had to relocate other stations and our experiences of the past, I would say two years is not unreasonable,” Soglin said.
Madison Fire Department Chief Steven Davis disagreed.
Reconstructing Monroe Street is back on track and scheduled for 2018, advancing two years from what Soglin proposed in his budget.
To keep borrowing at the same level, adjustments to other streets, bike, pedestrian and parks projects have been proposed.
Eskrich said the project has made progress in the past year and is scheduled to be shovel ready by the end of 2017.
“Businesses and residents need this project to finally be completed, it is exactly the type of investment we should all expect from our city property taxes,” Eskrich said.
The mayor's operating budget will be released Oct. 4. The City Council will consider the full 2017 capital and operating budget at meetings scheduled for Nov. 14 and 15.