Council approves new Wisconsin police station

(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Ignoring Mayor Sue Bauman's pleas for fiscal restraint, the City Council voted unanimously to include $1.7 million in the 2001 capital budget for the design and construction of a new South Madison police station.

Members also approved appropriating nearly $713,000 for Madison Metro's operating budget, which will help address about two-thirds of the transit utility's projected $ 1 million shortfall for 2001. (The Transit and Parking Utility will hold a public hearing Nov. 28 to consider service cuts and fare hikes to make up the approximately $300,000 gap that remains.)

In urging support for a new south side police station, Ald. Tim Bruer argued that his district has been waiting for such a facility since 1987. He called the current facility at 835 W. Badger Road overcrowded and grossly inadequate.

''The building is a disgrace,'' said Bruer, District 14.

Bauman, however, urged defeat of the measure, expressing concern about the city's growing debt.

''The real issue is how much flexibility are we going to have in the future,'' said Bauman, whose long-range capital improvement plan included money for a south side station in 2004.

The police station debt, which is added to the operating budget starting next year, is expected to amount to about $291,000 in 2002.

Assistant Police Chief Noble Wray said the department was prepared to break ground next spring at 837 Hughes Place. And he acknowledged mixed emotions about the council's action.

''It was a tough policy decision,'' he said.

''On one hand, we appreciate the opportunity to build a district station. But we also realize the financial situation it places the city in.''

Council members also approved borrowing an additional $100,000 to install traffic signals at Spring Harbor Drive and University Avenue; Raymond Road and McKenna Boulevard; and American Parkway and Eastpark.

In all, council members added $1.8 million in capital improvements to the budget, for total capital spending of $71.7 million. That includes $25.5 million in borrowing, a $500,000 increase from 2000.

Last year's capital budget was $93.9 million.

Council members also approved an operating budget for 2001 that will raise an average homeowner's taxes by $78, according to comptroller Dean Brasser.

Based on a tax rate of $9.34 per $1,000 of assessed property value, taxes on an average $ 149,831 home would be $1,399, up from $1,321 last year.

Spending would increase 5.9 percent, from $159.2 million in 2000 to $168.8 million.

Operating budget amendments approved include:

*$77,000 to the Police Department for towing services. The budget increase will be offset by increases in fines.

*$18,353 to the Public Health Department to hire a Spanish-speaking outreach worker.

There was no attempt to restore some $70,000 for scheduled leaf pickups, a cost-saving measure that lawmakers have said is causing great concern among their constituents.

An amendment that would have required city staff to study the pros and cons of privatizing the collection of trash and recyclables was defeated, with Bauman casting the deciding vote.

The 2001 operating budget includes full-year funding for the new Alicia Ashman Library, the newly remodeled Hawthorne branch library and a new public health facility on the east side.

It also funds recruit classes for the Police Department, keeps the Fire Department's minimum daily staffing at 62 firefighters and includes more than $200,000 to keep the city's ice rinks open.

(iSyndicate; Capital Times; Nov. 15, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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