State of the City Reflects on 2020

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Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–The disruptive effects that Covid-19 brought to nearly everyone’s lives in 2020, was certainly reflected in the recently released State of the City address subtitled, “A Year Like None Other.”

Beginning in mid-March, the state’s ‘Safer at Home” directive closed in-person K-12 schools and nonessential businesses. While the state Supreme Court struck down an extension of that directive in late May, Dane County largely re-instituted it.

City Hall, the Senior Center and the Public Library also were closed to the public and many employees worked from home.

Adjustments were made to continue offering city services but in a way that avoided spreading the virus among the public and city employees.

The library responded by offering curbside check out and return of books and materials that totaled 88,500 last year. 

Senior Center volunteers delivered 15,000 meals while also providing wellness checks to homebound residents. The case management team made more than 6,800 phone calls to check on the elderly. Exercise and other programs shifted to virtual format.

Emergency Medical Services added two state-of-the-art ambulances. Police calls for service continued to decline in 2020, a trend since 2017.

Construction activity last year, measured by the number of building permits issued, was comparable to recent years. However, the value exceeded $120 million, nearly doubling the best recent year, 2016. When additions, alterations and repairs are added, the value of building permits jumped to $189 million, easily the best year in a while.

Despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, larger commercial projects were already on the drawing board and completed the zoning process. Also, low-interest rates were a boom to construction.

Projects noted in the State of the City address included:

• The Middleton Market & Aviary, a $47 million residential and commercial development at 7622 Lisa Lane. COVID-19 slowed construction last year, but the project was planning on opening this spring, according to Treysta Group, the project’s co-developers.

• Cardinal View Senior Living, a 103-unit senior housing development in the city’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Three notable property redevelopment projects included:

• Conservancy Bend, office buildings, apartments and townhomes, located on Parmenter Avenue, east of the roundabout, by T. Wall Enterprises.

• The Kestrel, formerly The Addi, 39 apartments on University Ave by Wisconsin Housing Preservation Corp.

• i3 Product Development, a 13,000-square-foot research office on Pleasant View Road.

Upgrades to city parks included a $1.4 million pavilion expansion at Lakeview Park that includes a splash pad. Also, playground equipment was added to Parisi Park.

With fitness centers closed and residents took to the sidewalks and trails for exercise. The city bought and installed high-visibility yield signs at 10 well used pedestrian crosswalks last fall.

Work continued on repairs to trails and bridges in the Pheasant Branch Conversancy damaged in the August 2018 flood. Other flood-related improvements are underway or completed at Tiedeman, Stricker and Graber ponds, while flood mitigation is being studied.

Travel diminished considerably last year devastating the hotel industry and depressing the city’s room tax revenue from $1.986 million in 2019 to $580,241, last year according to the city.

The city had about $1 million less to spend on tourism promotion and development which room tax revenue funds.

The city received $439,476 in federal funding last year to assist with unbudgeted expenses created by the public health emergency Covid caused. Among the uses the funding was designated for included, sanitizing election facilities, airport operations, personal protective equipment and sick leave for health and public safety employees.

City Administrator Mike Davis called 2020, “a tremendously challenging year,” which “we persevered and have weathered…fairly well.” Technology became an increasingly important asset in the delivery of city services, Davis wrote in an email response to a reporter’s questions.

“We revamped our Information Technology department, and they delivered on the technology by which we worked remotely and in meetings. The elections’ management was a huge success with record turnout while keeping our election workers safe. We’ve stayed fairly healthy as well. With smart financial management we’ve been able to continue funding all essential services,” he wrote. 

It also helped better prepare the city to face the continuing challenges COVID-19 presents in 2021.

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