Madison Mayor Paul Soglin clarified the timeline he is proposing for construction of the new Midtown Police District station, a large project that has been a point of tension between Soglin and members of the City Council. But stakeholders remain concerned.
Soglin said in a statement Monday he is proposing a delay of only about two to three months for Midtown. Under the proposed executive capital budget, design of the project would occur in 2017, bids would be welcomed at the end of the year and construction would start in January 2018.
However, the 2016 adopted capital budget said construction of the facility would begin in 2016 and be completed in 2017.
The city Engineering department estimates Midtown would be ready to bid in August 2017, and Soglin would move that to October. The new station is estimated to take about nine months to build, according to city engineering, and would be completed in September 2018 under Soglin's proposed budget or in June 2018 if construction started in September 2017.
Soglin said in the statement the proposed approach lines up borrowing and initial operating costs to both occur in 2018.
"If construction were to begin in 2017, the borrowing will need to be authorized in 2017 at the amount in the 2016 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)," Soglin said in the statement. "However, given that construction costs will probably not begin to be incurred until the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2017, most of the borrowing will have to be reauthorized to 2018 anyway."
Jeanne Hoffman, city engineering manager, said the project is about 20 percent finished and moving into the design development phase, a critical time for adding detail into the plans.
"We can talk about when the construction documents will be completely done and ready to start advertising (for construction firms to bid on the project), and I would suspect the police department may have one answer, the architects have another and I have another," Hoffman said at a Board of Estimates meeting Monday.
Hoffman sent the project plans to numerous departments to gather feedback for the architecture firm, Engberg Anderson, which is currently reviewing them.
"The project is not on a back burner," Hoffman said.
Under the current adopted budget, Hoffman anticipates the engineering department would be ready to "hit the streets" and start advancing toward teh bid stage in August 2017. She said the delay stems from the mayor strategizing when it is best for the city to borrow money than the readiness of the Engineering Department.
"We are, in a way, agnostic about when the project is bid out," Hoffman said. "It is not us driving it."
While Soglin explained borrowing as a reason for moving the project out two to three months, others argue the move is political.
Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, whose district includes much of the proposed Midtown District, has said he will push to restore the timeline the City Council approved, 20-0, during last year's budget deliberations.
"The problem here is that the mayor has manipulated this project so many times that he has no credibility," Clear said. "I find it disingenuous to claim that this is a delay of 'just a few months' compared to what the council has repeatedly made clear is a priority."
Madison Police Capt. Jay Lengfeld, the Midtown project manager, also argued the mayor's proposed timeline is "strategic." Lengfeld said he plans to ask the City Council to keep the money authorized to start construction in August 2017 with plans to occupy the station in June 2018.
Lengfeld described the City Council's approval of funds for Midtown last year as a "line of credit."
"What the mayor's budget has done is totally wiped out the line of credit," Lengfeld said. "We will have to ... argue a year from now to give us money to build the station."
Alders and MPD staff members expressed frustration at the Tuesday Board of Estimates capital budget hearings and tried to nail down when the Midtown timeline changed and why the project is behind, according to the timeline agreed on in the 2016 budget. Jim Whitney, city engineer, blamed the Urban Design and Plan Commission approval process, which took longer than other city projects.
Lengfeld said at the Tuesday meeting he has felt a lack of desire to get the project finished.
"I think city staff sometimes have a difficulty when the mayor, who is their boss, isn't in favor of something," Lengfeld said. "A couple meetings I had to explain what I believed was the democratic process of the three branches of government."
Soglin, who has said in the past that funding the new district for 2016-2107 a “precarious situation," was not at the capital budget hearing Tuesday where alders expressed their support, once again, for the Midtown project.
"At some point, we need to say, 'The council has spoken, we understand the need, our constituents are strongly and solidly supportive of this moving forward, and we need to move forward," Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, said Tuesday.
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