City Council story

The Madison City Council on Tuesday approved $145,000 -- $20,000 less than originally proposed -- to improve security at a Far West Side apartment building for homeless families. 

A troubled Far West Side apartment building for formerly homeless families will get more money to improve security after a similar proposal was rejected last week.

The Madison City Council approved $145,000 for the development, managed and owned by Chicago-based Heartland Housing, to ensure the building at 7933 Tree Lane is staffed at all times by at least one person trained in “trauma-informed practices and conflict de-escalation.”

The extra worker will “help support the security staff that is there” around the clock, said Ald. Keith Furman, 19th District, who was one of the proposal’s authors.

The Tree Lane project is Madison’s second experiment with a Housing First approach to homelessness, which focuses on getting the homeless into housing and then offering them services to address mental illness, drug addiction and other problems.

But after it opened in June, the Tree Lane project was plagued by frequent police calls for gunshots, fights and other disturbances.

“This alternative is suggesting that the best way to address that is for there to be an individual working at the desk 24/7 so that the security guard has the ability to go around the building or go outside the building and check things out and still have coverage at the front desk ... by appropriate, trained professionals,” Furman said.

The money is $20,000 less than initially sought to stabilize the the 45-unit, $11.7 million apartment building. Mayor Paul Soglin originally proposed spending $165,000 to ensure a second security guard was working on nights and weekends.

Council members didn’t approve that plan at its meeting last week, voting 12 to 7 in favor, but three votes short of the super-majority needed to amend the city budget.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, whose 9th District includes the apartments, voted for the amended proposal and said the money for another staff member to be working at all times will free up the security guard to focus on enforcing building rules and keeping residents safe.

But he said he would have preferred to see the building get extra armed security, at least until the behavior problems decrease.

The extra money comes after the council approved $275,250 last week for support programming at the building. The city is seeking another agency to provide that programming after the YWCA Madison bows out of the project later this month.

Dogs at work

The council also agreed to delay a vote on a proposal to prohibit dogs in any part of a city-owned building or one occupied by the city.

The proposed ban came after a joint city-Dane County committee approved a policy framework last month allowing city and county employees who work at the Downtown City-County Building to bring their dogs to the office with them.

Council members agreed to come back and consider the proposal after they’ve had time to consider adding amendments, such as allowing dogs for therapeutic or educational reasons.

Service dogs would continue to be allowed if the ban is passed.

Furman sponsored the proposal. He said dogs could negatively affect city employees with dog allergies or who are afraid of or anxious around dogs, and could distract service dogs.

The county has already decided not to allow its employees to bring their dogs to work, he said.

But Deputy Mayor Enis Ragland, pointing to a survey of city employees, said allowing dogs at work could reduce stress while boosting employee morale and retention.

Other items

Consideration of a proposal to change how the city uses its tax incremental financing, or TIF, funds was delayed until a new council takes office after the April 2 elections.

The changes to Madison’s jobs TIF policy would emphasize job creation, targeting areas with high unemployment and opening up the process for small- and medium-size projects while tightening standards.

Also, Ald. Ledell Zellers, 2nd District, said she has pulled from consideration a proposal to impose fines on businesses that leave doors or windows open too long while running air conditioners.

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