Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Budget Meetings: Hour 8

Late night last night -- the Council finally recessed at 12:34 in the AM. Things already look to be shaping up late again tonight, and it just seems like it's going to be a late night for me in particular. When I showed up, the seats in back -- the only ones near audio hookups, which we radio folks need and are usually reserved for press -- were all taken, mostly by city staffers. The mayor's spokeswoman suggested I use a folding chair as my workspace. I went out into the hallway and grabbed an eight foot table and set it up in a heavy traffic walkway instead. If I have to suffer, everybody has to suffer.

The city council dived back into its budgeting process a little late at 5:40 this evening, as a number of alders (and reporters) were delayed in their arrival by heavy fog. Immediately off the bat, the council acted on a substitute motion on Alder Brenda Konkel's proposed amendment 15, which would have deleted all funding for Madison's brand new Fire Station #12 on the west side.

Construction of the station actually began earlier this month, with an official groundbreaking ceremony held earlier this week. Konkel says she proposed the original amendment in response to a Wisconsin State Journal editorial criticizing the mayor's decision to include the station in the contentious 2009 budget, but made the motion to place it on file because she couldn't support the amendment herself.

Fire Chief Debra Amesqua, seemingly incensed by the suggestion of delaying work on the project, used the ensuing discussion to rail against the notion the city ought to delay opening the new fire station. She said the project has been years in the works, and the fire department has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars purchasing equipment and training the personnel to staff the station.

Westside Alder Paul Skidmore said waiting was not an option for a part of town where fire response times can range up to 20 minutes.

Following discussion, the board voted unanimously to "place on file" amendment 15, effectively guaranteeing the $1.3 million needed to run the new fire station in its first year. Fire officials expect to complete construction and open the new fire house next summer.

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