Category Archives: City Services

Dollars And Sense: City Council Passes 2015 Budget

The South Milwaukee City Council unanimously passed the 2015 budget Tuesday night … one that maintains our first-class services while providing needed investments in some key areas to better our city.

You can see the document here. Some highlights …

  • The city tax levy is budgeted to fall 4.96% to just over $10 million, due primarily to the shift of fire hydrant maintenance fees from the property tax to a fee on property owners’ water bills. You can learn more about that decision here.
  • Tax rates are also decreasing, from $8.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013 to $8.41 per $1,000 in 2014. This is the city tax rate only.
  • Revenues are budgeted to increase 5.95% to more than $9.3 million, again primarily due to the hydrant fee shift.
  • Expenditures are budgeted to increase 0.8% to $18.7 million.

Obviously, there is a lot more detail behind all of this, and I share a lot of those details in my previous post.

In the end, I am proud of this first budget — proud of the investments it makes in our people, services and promising future. We are spending wisely to grow our city, and stepping up our game in key areas like economic development, downtown planning, urban forestry and human resources.

And we’re just getting started.

On, South Milwaukee!

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Thanking Our Board And Commission Members

Tonight, I had the pleasure to be a part of South Milwaukee’s Commissioners’ Banquet, our annual opportunity to formally recognize the public servants who do so much good for our city.

We have more than a dozen boards and commissions, all filled with volunteers, I am so grateful for their work.

As I told the crowd …

I love South Milwaukee, both our proud past and our promising future. I know you do too.

What a great story we have to share … and it’s a story we should all be proud of because it’s one we’ve all helped write, and continue to write every day.

When it comes down to it, it’s a story of our people … a story of dedicated community servants who have given of their time and talents to make South Milwaukee a better place.

There are more than 160 of those people in this room tonight … and I’m excited and honored to recognize them and their commitment to making a difference.

We could not do any of this without you.

You can learn more about our boards and coMmissions here … and you can apply to join one yourself with this application.

We are always looking for volunteers, those willing to bring a special skill or interest to bear in helping make their city a better place to live, work and play. Are you ready to step up?

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Leaf Collection Update

We ask for your patience as city crews continue to collect leaves in neighborhoods across South Milwaukee.

Three leaf crews will be working overtime this Saturday and next Saturday — in addition to normal weekday hours — to get as many leaves picked up as possible. We expect this work to be complete by Saturday, Nov. 29, weather permitting.

A few additional notes:

  • If residents have already placed leaves in the curb, and city crews have picked them up, please do not put additional leaves out. It is unlikely crews will return for a second pickup.
  • Once we make the final sweep, any leaves not picked up will have to be bagged and brought to the self-deposit station by the property owner.
  • Keep in mind that we cannot pick up leaves if cars are parked over the piles or tight up to the piles.

As crews continue to make their way through the city, we continue to ask that residents put away their rakes and mulch their leaves when and where possible. While the city will continue to do leaf collection, mulching is a better option for a number of reasons, including for the environment.

Learn more in the online letter I sent to residents this fall here.

(Note: Since I wrote this, we have found an alternative disposal site for our leaves: a facility in Caledonia. But the issues with the collection program remain remain the same.)

Going forward, into 2015 and beyond, we will be stepping up our communication efforts around the benefits of mulching. We’ll also continue to look for ways to deliver our leaf collection service more efficiently and cost effectively.

We appreciate your understanding.

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Winter Parking Permits On Sale Nov. 3

From the South Milwaukee Police Department …

It is that time of year again…

Winter Parking Season will soon be upon us. Permits will go on sale starting November 3, 2014. Cost of the permit is $25.00 per month or $80.00 for the entire 4 month season. Any person who wishes to park a vehicle on the street between the hours of 3am and 6am must purchase a parking permit. Alternate side parking rules also apply. Winter parking is enforced 7 days a week.

Permits can be purchased at the Police Department Monday-Friday from 7am – 8pm. There will be no permit sales, or citation payments accepted, outside of these hours OR on weekends and Holidays. (Holidays this season are Nov. 27, Nov. 28, Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31 and Jan.1) **NOTE***The Thanksgiving Holiday falls on November 27 and 28 which means that residents will have to purchase their December permits prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday in order to have them in time for the beginning of winter parking regulations on December 1, 2014.

PLEASE PLAN AHEAD, get your permits early. Parking permission will not be given because you did not have time to purchase a permit. Please come in early and get your permit purchased before the Thanksgiving Holiday.

 

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Leaves Update

So, leaf collection is in full swing and will continue into November.

As I’ve said, we are continuing this service this fall and expect to continue it into the future. I’ve also asked residents to consider other options given what we had been facing for the first time this fall: trucking all of our leaves to a landfill almost an hour away.

I say “had been facing” because, thanks to the hard work and persistence of our Street Department staff, we have a couple better disposal options.

First, we’re now trucking most of our leaves to a composting farm in Caledonia. Besides being much closer than Muskego, thus saving us fuel and man-hour costs, the fee they charge us to accept our leaves is also significantly less.

We’ve also been working with the Hunger Task Force Farm in Franklin as a potential disposal source.

So, good news. But the ask doesn’t change: Please put the rakes away, and mow. (Or ask the football team for help.)

It’s good for the city, the lawn and the environment.

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Well-Deserved Recognition For Our Police Department

SMPD accreditationThe South Milwaukee Police Department continues to deliver. But don’t take my word for it.

Consider that of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group, which has once again accredited our department following a rigorous review of the SMPD earlier this year. It is the fifth time the department has been accredited, the most in the state, and the department is one of less than 50 in the state to be going through the accreditation process.

The department was recognized at our City Council meeting Tuesday night.

WILEAG exists to “promote excellence and professionalism in policing” and includes 237 standards it promotes with local police departments. From the accreditation report:

The assessors were in agreement that the South Milwaukee Police Department is an excellent example of a WILEAG approved law enforcement agency; and is why they are sought out by law enforcement agencies for guidance when looking to become WILEAG accredited.

SMPD follows their Mission Statement: “We, the members of the South Milwaukee Police Department, are dedicated to providing a proactive, full service department that enhances the quality of life in our community by reducing crime through the protection of life and property”.

Central to their mission is a set of values that guide their work and decisions which allow them to make significant contributions to improving the quality of life in South Milwaukee; those values are: Human Life, Integrity, themselves, Excellence, Cooperation, Accountability, Laws and the Constitution. …

Reflecting on their proofs of compliance, feedback from the community and professional associates, and our observations of the agency, the team concluded unanimously that the department had achieved compliance with the applicable standards established by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group.

Congratulations to the SMPD!

Pictured above, from left to right, are South Milwaukee Chief Ann Wellens; Stan Stojkovic, professor and dean of the UWM Helen Bader School of Social Welfare; Lt. Pete Jaske and Capt. Jill Kallay.

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An Open Letter On Leaves

Dear Neighbors,

Autumn is here, and I have a humble request: Put the rakes away, and mow.

In other words, please consider not having the city pick up and dispose of your leaves this fall, be it through our street collection program or at our self-deposit station.

I ask this because starting this fall we are no longer able to dispose of the leaves we collect at the two nearby locations we had been using. Instead, we are now faced with having to truck most, if not all, the leaves we collect to a landfill in Muskego, almost an hour away.

This is a problem for a number of reasons.

  • First, it is extremely costly for taxpayers. From the labor costs of picking up the leaves and trucking them to the landfill to what the landfill bills us for accepting the leaves to the fuel costs associated with that work, we expect to spend more than $20,000 on leaf collection and disposal this fall, if nothing changes.
  • Second, it makes the whole process much more inefficient. Taking an entire leaf crew off the street for several hours to travel to and from the landfill is an inefficient use of labor and equipment when our crews could be back on the street collecting more leaves.
  • Third, it is bad for the environment. While the landfill does compost the leaves we give them, the extra fuel it takes to make the trip alone makes this bad for our planet. Plus, leaves being left in the street can be washed into area waterways, causing water quality issues. And piles of leaves can, and do, clog sewer drains during rainstorms.

My hope: We can reduce the amount of leaves we pick up this fall and every fall going forward. Even a 10% reduction would make a difference.

So, what I am asking taxpayers? Instead of raking your leaves into the street, please consider mulching them with your lawnmower, like I do. Or composting them. Or saving a few bags of leaves in your garage to use for mulch next spring. Anything that keeps us from taking your leaves on an hour-long truck ride. That’s not good for anyone.

As we do this, I also pledge the city will take a hard look at longer term solutions here – ways we can better offer this service in the years ahead. I expect we will continue to pick up and dispose of homeowners’ leaves. But something has to change.

Thank you for working with us on this issue.

Sincerely,

Erik Brooks

Mayor, City of South Milwaukee

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has some good tips for homeowners in dealing with fall yard waste. Check it out here, and click on the “Fall Yard Care” tab. And please note that there are certain requirements around composting in the City of South Milwaukee. You can learn more in Section 8.09(9)(d)a of the Municipal Code online at our city website.

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How To Dispose Of Your Appliances — For Free

The city is proud to announce a partnership with a local company that will allow for free disposal of unwanted appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers.

The agreement with Refrigerant Depot means the company will pick up appliances from outside your home or the South Milwaukee self-deposit station free of charge.

Previously, it cost $15 to dispose of them at the self-deposit station.

The service applies to refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves, microwave ovens and water heaters. Televisions and other electronic items have to be taken to an e-cycle cycle center such as Goodwill stores.

Here is a flyer explaining more.

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Sign Up For Emergency Alerts Through The City

I highly recommend this service, in which the city continues to invest …

What if . . . A child was missing in your neighborhood and your help was needed. OR There was a hazardous chemical spill and your family needed to evacuate. OR After the storm goes through, where will you find recovery assistance for your family?…

The City of South Milwaukee, in cooperation with AlertSense system (mystateusa.com©) is pleased to offer its residents a quick and reliable way of receiving emergency messages and alerts by phone or text message.

This AlertSense system has the capability of notifying residents by phone in the event of an emergency that affects your neighborhood. This is done utilizing a pre-established landline phone database. ‘

In the event of an emergency, you may receive an automated phone call advising you of the nature of the situation and the appropriate measures to take. The caller will always identify themselves as being with the City and may leave a phone number for you to contact for further information.

An added feature of this system allows people to sign up their mobile phones or other communication devices to receive these alerts by text message. (NOTE: This is a free service, but normal text messaging rates based on your wireless service plan will apply.)

To sign up, it is not necessary to complete a registration for a landline telephone, as these numbers are currently available to the alerting system. To sign up your mobile phone, go to AlertSense at https://mystateusa.com/alertSignup.aspx?region=21614 or there is a link on the Cities home page www.smwi.org

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Urban Forestry Update

The city is making real progress as we begin to implement our urban forestry program.

Our Engineering and Street Departments — among others — are working hard to take on this new city service, and I’m proud of what’s they’ve done. As I’ve written before, I think this is the right thing to do, and I wholly support our work in this area. In fact, I want to see us expand it, creating a true urban forestry program that includes added manpower and a clear replanting plan.

But first things first: tree removal and pruning. Here is an update on how those are going …

  • Since the council adopted the revised tree ordinance and policy in May, a tree inventory has been used to identify trees that the Street Department could potentially remove based on diameter, equipment, training and experience (typically trees 16 inches in diameter and less). Street Department personnel had to review each tree and have removed 35 trees this season, as of August 15, inlcluding a number downtown.
  • We have begun more focused work in the First District, as this will be done in phases. The Engineering Department has reviewed all trees identified as dead or in poor condition to determine if trees are considered public or private under the adopted city ordinance. Some property owners were sent a letter stating that a tree is in need of removal or pruning, or that the tree was considered private, but that its condition was potentially hazardous.
  • In all, there are 75 “public” trees in the First District that should be removed based on their condition, ranging from 17 to 49 inches in diameter. The trees (28 ash, 11 silver maple, 12 Norway maple and other species) are dead or in very poor condition.
  • Another 24 public trees are identified for pruning due to dead branches or other issues (height).
  • We are now seeking a contactor to remove the 75 trees, including stump removal, and do pruning work. Removals will be done by Dec. 1, weather permitting, with stump grinding possible in 2015.
  • Work is expected to move to the Second District in 2015.

Our city engineer has also put together a good Q&A document about our urban forestry efforts. Check it out here.

And I’ll continue to keep you posted on the progress we’re making.

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Welcome Back, Bookmobile

The Bookmobile is back, and I think it’s great.

The van, a partnership between the South Milwaukee Public Library and South Milwaukee School District, will make a number of planned stops this summer around the city.

It will appear at South Milwaukee Little League from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on these days  …

  • June 17
  • July 1
  • July 10
  • July 15

It will also stop at Grobschmidt Pool from 1 to 2 p.m. on these dates …

  •  June 26
  • July 10
  • July 24

The Bookmobile will have books for young readers through teenagers, and kids will be able to sign up for the summer reading program at the stops. There will also be story time.

Kids need to have a library card to check out books.

Sounds like fun … and I’m sure my family will be there.

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About Our Newest Firefighter Appointee

You may have seen this item on JSOnline — a story about one of the city’s newest firefighters.

The South Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission appointed Nathan Fager to the role of firefighter on May 13, and the City Council will vote on recognizing that appointment at its meeting Tuesday night. Mr. Fager is expected to start with the SMFD on June 1.

I stand behind the selection made by the PFC, which, per state statute, handles all police and fire hiring, discipline, etc., so as to remove politics from the process. The PFC, department and others fully vetted Mr. Fager prior to his appointment and were assured by a number of Milwaukee department officials that, while he was assigned to the station in question as a probationary firefighter, he was not part of the vandalism, nor did he witness it.

Moreover, Mr. Fager was a highly decorated member of the Milwaukee Police Department before seeking to move to the fire department, and he was at the top of his MFD Fire Academy class, well-regarded by instructors. He also went through our very comprehensive employment process, which includes a written exam, psychological evaluation, interviews and a background investigation.

I wish Mr. Fager well in joining a first-class department.

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South Milwaukee Fire Department Files Annual Report

Check out the report here, and learn more about the department, its people, and its work in keeping our community safe.

From it …

Once again, the members of the South Milwaukee Fire Department demonstrated their commitment to providing an exceptionally high level of service and standard of coverage with the limited resources at hand.

Call volume remained relatively stable during 2013 with a slight increase in the number of emergency medical service (EMS) calls. This increase is something that is being realized across our country as the demographics of our society change to reveal an aging population. While the number of incidents classified as “building fires” was less, the number of actual working fires increased. Our department requested mutual aid from our neighbors for 7 working structure fires in 2013. Dollar loss from these fires remained relatively unchanged when compared to 2012. Unfortunately, the fire department experienced its first fire fatality in a residential house fire in over 10 years in a fire that occurred on December 21st in a single-family home that claimed the life of an 80-year male. The cause of this fire remains undetermined. 

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Improving Fire Service Through Cooperation

Fire agreement signing“As a result of this new agreement, each community will be analyzing its fire and emergency response plans and determining whether neighboring communities might have resources closer to an emergency than the home communities’ resource in order to provide a rapid response to critical emergencies,” said Greendale Fire Chief Tim Saidler, the President of the Milwaukee County Association of Fire Chiefs. 

Here is the press release for the initiative, which area mayors and village presidents signed earlier today at the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council meeting in West Allis.

(That’s me signing in the photo.)

For us, this agreement essentially formalizes something we’ve done for years — partnering with nearby communities to fight fires and provide emergency medical response. But it doesn’t hurt to put this in writing … and potentially find new approaches to make these partnerships even stronger.

Check out more coverage from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Investing In Our Services And Infrastructure

It was a busy South Milwaukee City Council meeting Tuesday night, with the annual police department awards topping the agenda.

More on those awards in a separate post.

For now, I want to call out a few items that passed showing the city’s continued commitment to invest in our infrastructure.

  • First, the council gave final passage to significant changes to our urban forestry ordinance, 6-1. Key details were contained in my previous post, although the final version passed Tuesday does include a change making the idea of care for more than 5,o00 “street trees” more of a partnership with property owners than the sole responsibility of the city. But the spirit of the ordinance is the same — the city is taking a much more active role in maintaining our urban forest, including removal of dead or dying trees in the right of way and pruning. As I’ve said, I hope this is a good first step toward a broader urban forestry effort, and it’s the right thing to do. The city should play an active role in maintaining (and enhancing) its urban forest, and we’re now in the game, as we offer a new service for taxpayers that I hope residents embrace.
  • The council also approved spending for engineering services for the looming reconstruction of 17th Avenue between Rawson and Milwaukee. It’s likely going to be a late-season project — and one badly needed.
  • Alderpersons also voted to fund a study into storm sewer relief for the neighborhood south of City Hall, between 16th and 17th Avenues, Mackinac to Marshall. This is an area hit particularly hard by the 2008 and 2010 floods, and this study will look at ways we can address issues in that neighborhood long term … the latest example of investments the city has made to reduce the risk of major flooding.

I’ll keep you posted as these projects evolve.

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