Love Letters to the County Board

Posted May 15th, 2014 @ 11:42 AM by

Tonight, it appears the “liberals” on the county board are prepared to go forward and buy a building for a day center for people without homes that has inadequate water and sewer, questionable police services, no realistic and meaningful transportation plan and no current budget that details exactly what this will all cost after remodeling, connecting to City of Madison sewer and water, retrofitting a sprinkler system and doing additional remodeling for expansion. See the two emails I have sent below:

1490 Martin St. a good investment?
Sent 23 hours ago, no response to any of my questions from those planning to vote for this project.

Are you throwing good money after bad on a building that really isn’t appropriate for this use? (Forget the transportation,location and other issues for a moment.)

I’m not a genius developer, but I have seen quite a few plans serving on the City of Madison plan commission for three years and working through various issues in my district for the 8 years I was and alder as well as being involved in several neighborhood development processes. I am also personally working on my second redevelopment project (the first being the Social Justice Center where I served as the chair of the building committee during development and have served in a building committee manager capacity for 14 years). I have also looked at quite a few buildings recently for sale for various reasons. Given my experience in these matters, I am deeply concerned about the building at 1490 Martin St. being a good investment. The building itself is not much more than a shed or pole barn. The amount of work necessary to make it a functional building seems unnecessarily expensive and in the end, I’m not sure that it won’t be in continuous need of improvements and repair. Given the real estate I’ve looked at over the last 6 months, this doesn’t seem to be a good price that you’re paying and quite frankly, the value of the property won’t be there for resale.

I am also very concerned that there are not numbers about the cost of remodeling, the costs to hook up City of Madison water, the cost of putting in a sprinkler system after the remodeling is done and the cost of expansion after the sprinkler system is in place. Every real estate development project has unexpected costs, that is a given, but you can minimize them through careful planning and given some of the issues I have seen here and the unanswered questions, I am very concerned.

Quite frankly, if I was on a board of directors of a non-profit, or the executive director of a non-profit trying to make a decision about buying this building for this purpose, I would run fast in the other direction based water pressure and fire issues alone. Maybe government has money to waste on these matters, and is willing to take the risk of a fire with possible catastrophic consequences, but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want that decision to rest on my shoulders. There has to be a better building that will be of greater value when purchased and will have more value down the road and will serve the needs of the people using this building in a better way.

If anyone has answers to any of these questions, please let me know. I did not hear the answers to these questions during the Health and Human Needs or Homeless Issues Committee meetings or during the tour of the building. (Sorry I missed Personnel and Finance where these questions might have been asked and answered, been a little sick.)

– How will people get to the day center? (I’m looking for a factual explanation of how person A gets to point B)
– How many bus tickets will be available and under what conditions? (What will that cost?)
– Will there be a shuttle system available? Who would run it? (What will that cost?)
– How will they supplement the bus service on weekends and holidays when the buses run once and hour and less hours? Sundays are particularly difficult as there is no place to go when the library is closed.
– What happens in a snow storm when everyone is stuck downtown when they get out of shelter?
– What are the details of the bicycle plan being offered?
– Will bus tickets be available downtown to get TO the center, or do people have to walk to get there to get a bus ticket?
– How much of the transportation plan is additional funds and how much takes away from the current need?
– Is the route safe for pedestrians and bicyclists of varying abilities? There are multiple busy intersections and Martin Street does not have a side walk.

– The private well water system won’t support a sprinkler system because there is not enough water pressure so capacity is limited to 99 until that can be installed, what happens if more than 99 people are in the building, will it be safe? (They exceeded the capacity on E. Washington quite frequently, 125 – 150 people in a day.)
– The fire department can’t use the hydrants in the area, instead they have to use tanks to bring water in, would they be able to handle a fire in a building this large with this many people?

– The Town of Madison Police Chief says they don’t have resources to handle any more calls, what happens if they can’t respond?
– What kind of training does the Town of Madison have for dealing with people with mental illness?

– How much will the transportation plan cost?
– How much will it cost to remodel the facility?
– How much will it cost to expand the facility when Porchlight (and the music studio) leaves the back area and they can expand into the full 8,000 square feet?
– How much will it cost to connect to city water beyond the $30,000 – $40,000 to get the pipe done?
– How much will it cost to put in the sprinkler system at a later date?
– How much will the expansion when Porchlight leaves cost?
– Susan Schmitz says that Downtown Madison Inc. didn’t commit to raising $75,000 in private funds (Lynn Green says that is a misunderstanding and just a number they put in the budget), so how much private money is going into this project? What is DMI’s commitment?
– United Way committed $50,000 (to match the city $50,000 and the county $50,000) to help run the facility for half of 2014, but is not committing any funds after this year, where will the $300,000 needed to operate this facility 365 days a year come from? What is United Way’s commitment to this project?
– Why are we paying what appears to be $100,000 more than the building is worth?
– Why are we renting the back storage area to Porchlight and the sound studio for $1.
– If the sound studio stays, is Porchlight collecting the rent, or is the county? How much per month are they paying? (Wait, why is the sound studio staying?)
– What happens to the $469,000 that currently goes to Porchlight to run a day center in this location? (Porchlight staff and United Way couldn’t really answer this question)
– What is the cost difference between floor plan A and floor plan B?

– Sarah and Z! (they will be running the facility) gave input on the floor plan for 60 minutes, but have not been asked to review the proposals, do they feel this is sufficient, what are their concerns? What kind of input will they get?
– The floor plan only allows for 5 – 6 children, is that sufficient?
– There are only 3 washers and dryers, will that be sufficient? (Especially on days when it rains when people are sleeping outside)
– Is there a sufficient number of showers?
– Is the kitchen area sufficient?
– Which floor plan are they approving? A? or B?

– How long will it take to connect to City of Madison water?
– Will there be sufficient water pressure for the low-flow fixture showers?
– How will the addition of washers, showers and additional bathrooms and cooking facilities impact the water pressure on the private well in the area, will it be sufficient?

– Who says that people who use this facility can’t use the park across the street? (Steve Schooler didn’t know the answer.) What is the Town of Madison parks policy for behavior issues?
– How long will Porchlight stay in the facility?
– What happened to the MARC building, if we have to pay for transportation, isn’t that a better building with more amenities around it?
– One of the big questions of the neighborhood relates to notice and input of other neighbors, including schools, service providers, and businesses. If they have not been notified, when will they be? Will they have input into the operations of the facility?
– What is the plan for the people using the facility now when it gets shut down for renovations?
Thank you for your service.


I have had the opportunity to review the revised and more detailed transportation plan for the day center. However, I feel like it has many of the same holes in it that the winter transportation plan had, and more. In reviewing it, I have found that there is very little actually being offered that doesn’t already exist and what currently exists is insufficient and in use for other purposes.

My main question is this, how many additional trips will be provided to get the additional 100 or so people to and from the day center on a daily basis, including holidays and weekends?

Is useless without bus tickets. While the buses run “regularly” on weekends and holidays, that means you could wait 45 – 60 minutes for a bus. Outside. In the cold. In the rain. etc. What happens if the buses shut down due to the weather?

Shine608 – When developing the proposal for the day center, the money budgeted for bus tickets was not intended to be to GET TO the facility. The bus tickets are intended to get to Social Security Office, DMV, job interviews, looking for housing, etc. It would be a shame to use these tickets simply to get people to and from the day center.

City – I am unclear what programs have $5 – 7,000 for bus tickets, but whatever program it is, that funding is insufficient for the need and more are needed. Every program I am aware of at the moment is out of bus tickets. Additionally, the requirements to get access to the bus passes are usually very specific, and I’m guessing that the program requirements don’t allow for daily transporation for showers, laundry and storage.

Transit for Jobs – This program is currently out of bus tickets for partner agencies and has been for about a month or two. Additionally, these bus passes are for JOBS, not transit to stay warm for the day or do your laundry. These bus passes are also currently in use for other purposes and should not be counted on for transportation to the 1490 Martin St. site.

Numerous other programs – Again, these bus passes are in high demand, have specific uses required and are insufficient to meet the current needs. Most notably, the JFF office typically work with people who are currently or precariously housed. Not many homeless persons are connected to neighborhoods that offer JFF services.

What two vans are available? My understanding is that only one is in use.

The current service only uses one van, only runs during the week days, if the weather is ok and does not maintain a regular, reliable schedule. Additionally, the van only holds a dozen or less people.

$46,000 spent on bus passes that can be used 7 days a week and is not limited in where it goes would be a much better expenditure.

Where will the bicycles be accessed? Will they be kept downtown, so people can get TO the day center? Will they have trailers and racks so people can transport their laundry and sleeping gear with them?

Why does the transportation plan say “??? (Sum Sufficient)” What does that mean?

All indications are that the progressives, Sheila Stubbs and conservatives will be voting against. “Liberals” (a.k.a. democrats?) on the county board will be voting to go forward with this purchase in order to “get it off their plate”. They believe that if they don’t do this, there won’t be a shelter this winter. Well, that might be true, but what good is one that no one can get to? Or that doesn’t have adequate water (and therefore fire protection)? Or adequate police services? (Note: for those not following along with every twist and turn, this is in the TOWN of Madison, not the CITY)

1. Join Facebook event
2. Share with friends
3. Sign petition
4. Email county board supervisors (info in event description – ask these questions:
(email =
5. Show up tonight at 7:00 at the City-County Building to register against or speak against buying 1490 Martin St.

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