San Damiano

For the city of Monona, purchasing the San Damiano property along the lake was “once in a lifetime.”

The city of Monona’s cost for the purchase of the San Damiano property just got significantly lower.

The Dane County Board approved its 2021 county budget last week, which included a $2 million grant for the city of Monona to support its purchase of San Damiano.

Located at 4123 Monona Drive, the property is 10 acres with significant Lake Monona frontage, which is slated to become a public park in the near future. The city agreed to purchase the property for $8.6 million.

“These funds underscore our commitment to providing free, accessible outdoor recreation for all residents of Dane County,” County Board Chair Analiese Eicher said.

Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor said the grant was introduced to the board by Board District 24 Supervisor Sarah Smith, adding that the city was “thrilled” with the news.

O’Connor also said there’s a possibility that more funding could come in at the state level, which would further alleviate the city’s costs on the now $6.6 million dollar commitment.

The purchase will be finalized in June of 2021. Until then, people can’t use the property, as it’s not yet city owned. Once the city closes on the property, O’Connor expects people will be able to begin using it shortly after.

Until then, other fundraising efforts are also in play. A group called the Friends of San Damiano has been formed.

Those interested in donating have been encouraged to contact Andrew Kitslaar at andrewkitslaar@gmail.com. Checks can be made out to Friends of San Damiano and mailed to them at P.O. Box 6647, Monona, WI 53716.

County budget

The Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the 2021 county budget at their meeting last Monday. The operating budget totals $615,596,386. The capital budget is $80,789,300. The budget includes a levy increase of 3.4%, increasing taxes on the average home by $30.18.

The annual budget process takes place each October and November and sets spending priorities for the following calendar year. The County Executive released his proposed budget on Oct. 1, and County Board committees have spent the last six weeks hearing from the public and making amendments regarding staffing and funding levels.

“As we do every year, the County Board has heard from members of the public and what their priorities are for the coming year. It goes without saying that this year has presented us all with challenges like we’ve never seen before,” said County Board Chair Analiese Eicher. “I’m proud of the budget the County Board has approved as it works to address some of our county’s biggest concerns.”

The approved budget includes an additional $4.35 million in capital funds to address the affordable housing crisis. This includes an additional $1 million that will be put into the county’s Affordable Housing Development Fund. County Executive Parisi’s proposed budget included $6 million, this addition brings the fund to $7 million. The County Board also added $2 million to support the affordable housing development project at the former Westgate Shopping Center redevelopment site, and $1.35 million toward an affordable housing project at 1042 S. Park Street.

A total of $9 million will also be included to ensure those who face homelessness will continue to have hotel rooms for safe respite. These dollars should allow Dane County to keep homeless individuals in a safer environment through June of 2021.

The operating budget includes several amendments to the proposed budget; most notably, the restoration of positions that were reduced or eliminated. Those positions include:

· Two pretrial assessment positions

· Scanning LTE funds in Family Court Services

· A .5 Veterans Service Officer

“During this crisis when many people are facing furloughs or losing their jobs entirely, I am proud that, in this budget, we are able to keep Dane County workers employed throughout the pandemic,” said Supervisor Patrick Miles, personnel and finance committee chair. “Years of careful budget management resulted in our resiliency to weather this terrible storm and keep staff who are dedicated to providing critical services to the residents of the County.”

The Board also voted to increase funding for a mental health crisis worker contract by $82,000.

County Executive Joe Parisi signed the budget on Friday.

“Everything we have done leading up to this pandemic laid the groundwork for our response to it,” said Parisi. “Our shared sense of community and willingness to do whatever it takes to help one another is prevailing as we navigate this unrivaled time. The 2021 budget works to buffer the services Dane County provides and address the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on our community.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an overwhelming strain on our community, negatively impacting many struggling with mental illness and addiction. Dane County’s commitment to addressing behavioral health challenges has existed for years and will remain a top priority during the pandemic and beyond.

A total of $6.5 million in the budget will also go toward constructing the second phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail from Fish Camp County Park to Lake Kegonsa State Park. Plans and permits for this next phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail are on track to be done by spring, with construction bids slated for release later next year.

A total of $1.75 million has also been included to expand the Continuous Cover Program. The popular program helps to preserve lands from the ongoing pressures of development, reduce run-off, and mitigate the effects of climate change. To date, Dane County has protected close to 700 acres of land in 22 townships. Converting to grasses and pollinator habitat has reduced phosphorus run-off into local waters by over 1,700 pounds a year.

Dane County continues to make important progress with its multi-million-dollar effort to reduce flood risk along the Yahara Chain of Lakes. The Yahara Chain of Lakes Sediment Removal Project started this summer and is designed to improve flow—moving rainwater that currently sits in the lakes for weeks through at a steadier clip. There is over $6 million in the budget, including $2.5 million in new money for this work to stay on track next year.

“Regardless of how much longer this difficult journey lasts or what the coming days bring, we know we have a county government that’s capable and committed to its people and this very special place,” said Parisi. “I am grateful for what everyone has done — regardless of scale — to help neighbors and friends. And, I am hopeful the 2021 budget will help our community through this unprecedented period.”

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