On Feb. 23, the Platteville Common Council held its biweekly session at the Broske Center in Legion Park, with roughly half those in attendance present via Zoom. The session began with the annual tourism report, then focused on passing a new sidewalk policy with citizen comments in mind and a presentation on the current state and future of the Platteville Fire Department.
The tourism report indicated that, as expected due to the pandemic, tourism was low in 2020. However, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Wayne Wodarz reported $28,000 in profit for the city during his brief presentation. Tourism is expected to improve this year as vaccines are distributed and the pandemic slows to an end. The report backed this up by saying that 80% of people feel comfortable going out and participating in events.
The council heard citizen comments before voting on a revision of the sidewalk policy. All three citizens who spoke on the item endorsed Option Three, with one person even preparing and performing a song in support of the policy. Only two options were presented during the meeting. Revised Option Two and Option Three both outline the purpose, parameters and requirements of city sidewalks in future development, and the options differ only in their rulings on cul-de-sacs and the industrial park. Option Three requires sidewalks on one side of streets ending in a cul-de-sac “provided that the distance between the center of the cul-de-sac and the entrance to the street does not exceed 300 feet,” while Option Two states that sidewalks need only be considered on cul-de-sacs and not always implemented.
The primary concern of those on the council, especially Kathy Kopp, was the ability for fire department vehicles to access the cul-de-sacs due to the sizing difficulties that may arise from needing to incorporate sidewalks into the available space. This could result in smaller cul-de-sacs to preserve space for the adjacent lots, thus limiting the space for emergency response vehicles to maneuver.
“I’m not sure there is a cul-de-sac in Platteville that we can turn a lot of our trucks around in, so, obviously, bigger is better, but there are limitations in the city that we understand … My recommendation is not to make them any smaller than they already are, but beyond that we will deal with what we have to,” said Platteville Fire Department Chief Ryan Simmons when asked for comment on the concerns.
The two proposals only differ otherwise in that Option Three addresses the industrial park while Revised Option Two does not. Council President Barbara Daus proposed an amendment for Option three to include consultation of the Platteville Industrial Development Corporation in the section of the proposal dealing with the industrial park. The Platteville Industrial Development Corporation oversees the industrial park and development of new businesses in the area. The council then moved to vote on passing Option Three with the amendment, and the motion passed with a narrow 4-3 vote.
Sidewalk discussions continued with initial conversation on awarding the contract to construct a new sidewalk along the south side of Business Highway 151, which will run from the Water Street intersection to David Canny Rountree Branch Trail at Valley Road. The contract must go to the lowest bidder in this case. G-Pro Excavating has placed the lowest bid at just under $71,000, which is comfortably below the $75,000 budgeted for the project.
A work session began after the discussion, where Public Administration Associates and Five Bugles Design presented an overview of their comprehensive analysis of the Platteville Fire Department. The purpose of the analysis, which began in June 2020, was to determine the current state of the fire department, how to improve or evolve it to be more effective and how it may evolve over the next several decades. One of the main concerns addressed in the survey was whether the department should remain a volunteer organization or become a paid, full-time department. The analysis found that the Platteville Fire Department performs notably well in training, tradition, response time and procedures.
“The department is doing very well in its current configuration, and with the staff that they have and with the apparatus that they have. But we did find some things in the department that, we believe, need some change and some work,” said retired fire chief Tim Franz, who worked on the analysis.
Aside from needing to formalize certain procedures, the largest foreseeable problems with the department are the retention of experienced volunteers with the increasing strain placed on people’s time and the state of the fire station. Overall, the analysis found that the current fire station is unsuitable for continued use by the department due to the very tight space and missing or inadequate facilities. The report includes three recommendations to improve the fire station, two of which would require the construction of a new station at either the National Guard Armory or the current Senior Center.
The former option would place the new fire station on Water Street and provide enough space for all the recommendations made, including additional apparatus bays and decontamination spaces. The station in this proposal would be three stories tall and has an estimated budget of $8,031,643 to $9,825,008. The primary concerns for the Water Street location are the higher civilian traffic and the lack of additional space for a technical college and training spaces, which will make also make it difficult to expand the facility.
The latter option, located on Lewis Street, would require the existing senior center to be razed and relocated elsewhere, which would complicate the process further. However, this location would allow for all the recommendations stated above and provide additional space for the station to grow in the future and have a tech college and training spaces. The estimated budget for this option is $8,764,759 to $10,748,816, or $11,047,721 to $13,031,779 with the alternate bid for basement space.
Additionally, the report found that the department model is in line with a municipal fire department and recommended officially claiming the department as such. It was also recommended that the city hire paid personnel to cover daytime responses during the week to avoid straining the volunteers’ work lives.