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Garver Feed Mill

Madison's Finance Committee approved $1.6 million in borrowing for remediation efforts to contaminated soil around the Garver Feed Mill site.

Madison’s Finance Committee approved $1.6 million Monday to clean up contaminated soil at the Garver Feed Mill site that is slated for development.

Members voted unanimously to borrow the additional funds for soil remediation efforts and approved an already-budgeted $1.82 million grant and a development agreement with Baum Development. The developer is planning a $19.8 million project to convert the crumbling East Side feed mill into an artisan food production facility and add up to 50 “microlodging” units for short-term rental on the surrounding five acres.

City Council President Marsha Rummel, whose 6th District encompasses Garver, said neighborhood residents have been waiting a long time to see something done with the property.

“We’re going to get a rehabilitated building — a gorgeous, historic building that’s a legacy of our industrial heritage — reused, ironically and beautifully, for its original purpose, which is food production,” Rummel said.

Dan Rolfs, city community development project manager, said the city had known the site at 109 S. Fair Oaks Ave. was contaminated — including with some petroleum and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — but the amount of money needed for remediation did not become clear until it was known how much soil was going to be excavated.

Ald. David Ahrens, who represents the neighboring 15th District but isn’t a Finance Committee member, argued against spending money on the project.

“I don’t think this an appropriate cost or use of city funds. I think we’re being led along,” he said. “I think now is the time, before all the money gets spent, to put a stop to it.”

Since the city intends to sell the Garver building to Baum but retain ownership of the land under a ground lease, the responsibility of soil remediation falls on the city, Rolfs said.

Southwest Side center

The committee also approved borrowing an additional $200,000 for an employment and neighborhood center on Madison’s Southwest Side.

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Madison officials budgeted $1 million to renovate the former Griff’s restaurant at 1233 McKenna Blvd. into an employment center for the Park Edge/Park Ridge neighborhood.

But some of the money went to unanticipated costs, such as $80,000 to $90,000 in city staff time for engineering work, community development director Jim O’Keefe said.

The $1 million was also not project-specific and budgeted for neighborhood centers in general, letting the city draw out $50,000 to $75,000 to finish work at two other centers, O’Keefe said.

Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney said it’s a “must-happen project” for residents of her 1st District. But she also asked city staff to document what caused the “erosion” of funds, noting how other prominent city projects have been underestimated, including the Madison Municipal Building renovation.

The center is set to open in May or June of next year, O’Keefe said.

Other action

The committee also approved a proposal that would allow citizens who successfully bring complaints before Madison’s Police and Fire Commission to be reimbursed for legal fees. It would let the City Council adjust the reimbursement to police and fire officials or citizens who succeed on some parts of a complaint but not others.

Madison’s Community Development Division’s vision on long-term peer-support programs for victims of violence and those leaving incarceration was accepted by the Finance Committee as a basis to draft a request for proposals. In June, the City Council approved $75,000 for a short-term program to last the summer and fall.

A plan to increase the number of utility boxes wrapped in decorative art and a proposed “mural alley” behind the East Side’s Hawthorne Library also passed the committee.

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