ABOVE: That actually looks pretty nifty -- big plans for Northwestern Mutual-owned land on the Oak Creek side of 27th Street (From the document "South 27th Street Sub-Area Vision Plan," prepared for Oak Creek by Eppstein Uhen Architects).
UPDATE 2: In Minutes from 27th Street Steering Committee meetings from January 15, 2007 to August 24, 2009, DREXEL INTERCHANGE is mentioned 21 times.
Ostensibly, the Economic Development Commission is charged with overseeing the Franklin half of the Franklin-Oak Creek 27th Street Steering Committee.
In the news recently: Attempts to divert a half million dollars that had been earmarked for "enhanced lighting" for the 27th Street corridor to funding the superfluous Drexel Interchange in Oak Creek.
Alderman Steve Olson is an EDC commissioner and also chair of the 27th Street Steering Committee. At last week's Franklin Common Council meeting he made the following motion, which, fortunately, did not pass. See if you can parse it:
Alderman Olson to approve a State/Municipal Agreement for a Highway Improvement Project: 27th Street (STH 241) with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, providing for lighting improvements within the City of Franklin, with the understanding that the lighting costs of $500,000 to be paid thereunder would otherwise be the responsibility of the Department of Transportation under standard cost sharing requirements, subject to the qualification of the lighting costs as project costs and the approval by the Joint Review Board for the applicable Tax Incremental District(s) of the $500,000 to be paid thereunder as a project cost to be paid by tax increment, and subject to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation agreeing that this extraordinary one-time lump sum payment shall not be increased and shall not be due until the commencement of the 27th Street project no earlier than 2013 and the Department of Transportation obtaining the current intended timely construction of the Drexel Avenue Interchange without municipal cost share funding from the City of Franklin; all of the foregoing being subject to Oak Creek agreeing that it is in full satisfaction of any City of Franklin obligation under Article IV. of that certain June, 2009 Memorandum of Understanding with Oak Creek. Seconded by Alderman Taylor.
Again -- fortunately -- it did not pass.
I'd asked for the following item to be placed on last night's EDC agenda:
Re-engagement with/re-assessment of the 27th Street project: I'm told by Mayor Taylor that the Economic Development Commission is essentially responsible for the 27th Street Steering Committee, yet it is my opinion/observation that the EDC membership is woefully under-informed as to the issues facing the project as well as the monies being spent. (I note, for instance, that the 4/20/10 Common Council agenda item G.5 concerns the Drexel Avenue Interchange in relationship to 27th Street, and the EDC has not offered the Common Council a recommendation on the issue.)
That did not, alas and surprise, get on the agenda. But we did have this much more sparsely worded item:
27th Street Update - Alderman Olson
Good enough. After Alderman Olson's short update, I had the floor and began to ask questions.
First: Are we or our contractor, HNTB, still on the hook to "Boomgaard" agency Zizzo Group for marketing work? (Brace yourself: Their bid total was $265,823; HNTB takes an additional "middleman" fee of $63,840. Potential total bill for marketing: $329,663).
How much have we paid them thus far? Answer: Will get the figures.
Then: Did the EDC indeed endorse the Drexel Interchange project as former EDC commissioner (and 27th Street Chairman) Ted Grinjes claimed during Citizen Comment Period at last Tuesday's Common Council Meeting.
Then I asked Alderman Olson about the the specifics of Franklin's $500,000 that he had attempted to shift from 27th Street to the interchange via the motion quoted above. He described to me the intricacies of lighting pole technology, and the fact that "enhanced lighting" placed 7th on the list of amenities people would like to see on 27th Street (which brought to mind the Henry Ford quote: "If I'd asked people what they wanted me to invent, they would have said 'faster horses.'")
But -- how and why does Franklin 27th Street corridor money get shifted to an interchange in Oak Creek?
Assistant City Attorney Brian Sajdak: "If we want to talk about the cost of the lights or the look of the lights on 27th Street, that's within the purview of the Commission. The subsequent agreement between the municipalities and the state that applies those funds differently? That's not within the 27th Street Steering Committee's purview. They are there only to look at, 'This is what we think the strip should look like,' and make recommendations to the two bodies, both councils, as to what it should look like and the subsequent costs that are associated with it. The issue of funding Drexel Interchange, however it's done -- applying fund from 27th Street, applying other funds; whatever it is -- that's not the 27th Street purview, that is above and beyond the agenda item as it's noticed."
He's probably right; not getting my item as I composed it on the agenda made discussion of the Drexel Interchange a gray area. But "the subsequent costs that are associated with" 27th Street -- hey, where's our half-million-dollar "enhanced lighting"? -- are certainly within our purview, so I asked that the 27th Street Steering Committee provide for us an updated accounting of all monies spent to date for next month's meeting of Fight Club the EDC.
And, in the meantime, I'm reading a book about Robert's Rules of Order, and Alderman Olson and I have to schedule a coffee date.
In a later post: The EDC takes up the question of small "process and fee" incentives to encourage creative and economy-strengthening development.