Big budget items pit neighbors, city leaders against one another

Big budget items pit neighbors, city leaders against one another

Big changes were made to the mayor’s executive budget Monday night when the Board of Estimates added plans for another city fire station and police station and kept plans for a public market.

These three major projects will all be partially funded in the 2017 budget, and the decision caused tension between city leaders and neighbors who favor one project over the others.

John Kosobucki has only lived on Madison’s southeast side for two years but in that time he’s seen how important it is to build another fire station in the area. In 2015, his father passed out and required immediate medical attention but emergency crews took longer than expected to arrive.

“We called for an ambulance. It was almost 20 minutes before they got here,” Kosobucki said.

Kosobucki lives more than 5 miles from the nearest station. A new station would cut that distance in half.

“I think this area is really lacking in services and there are about 250 families,” he said.

The proposed fire station would go at the corner of Agriculture and Femrite drives, and would cost $6 million. The 2017 budget would cover $5.5 million of that in 2017, and then another $500,000 in 2018.

The southeast side is far from the only area vying for more public safety support. Over on the west side, residents are hoping a former church at Westmooreland and Mineral Point roads will be turned into a police station.

“If you think about getting from here (Mineral Point and Westmoreland) to the West Police District, which is at McKenna and Raymond roads, that’s about a 20 or so minute trip even if you have lights and sirens on,” District 19 Alder Mark Clear said.

Clear said a sixth police district is a must to properly serve the 80,000 residents on the west side.

“It’s a big deal moneywise, but the city really needs it,” Clear said.

The project will cost the city about $10.8 million. It is currently in the design stages with firms under contract with the city. The 2017 budget will cover $8.1 million of the total cost.

The business community favors a different plan, one that will generate more revenue. A public market is slated to be built here on the city’s near eastside at First and East Washington avenues for $13 million. The city will cover $4.25 million, including $1.2 million in the first year. The rest will be covered by a variety of outside sources.

“The Madison public market has a lot to do with the base of healthy food access, equity and job development and economic development,” said Meghan Blake-Horst, a resident and co-founder of Friends of Madison Market. “It hits on the four major pieces that our city has been working on.”

The market, which is five years in the making, would have 40 permanent stalls in addition to temporary businesses.

“This is people’s lives. They’ve put so much into this, which is very different from the other projects in the city,” Blake-Horst said.

There is a chance all of these projects could make it into the budget, but it’s a question of how much is too much. The city needs to figure that answer out by mid-November when the 2017 budget has to be approved.