With ARISE in full swing, the controversial Monterey Dam decision behind them and the sale of the former General Motors property finalized, Janesville City Council members are looking ahead to what they might accomplish next year.
Here are issues the council wants to address in 2018 (The Gazette was unable to reach council members Sue Conley and Jim Farrell before press time).
President Doug Marklein
Marklein ran for city council on the principle of not concentrating on any specific issue.
Instead, he evaluates issues as they’re presented and makes the best decisions he can for Janesville. Marklein wants to carry that pledge into 2018, he said.
“Bring it in front of me, and I will do my absolute best to listen to all sides and make a decision that I think will move the city forward,” Marklein said. “That’s what you have to do on the council, in my opinion.”
The city as a whole is more important than any specific part or issue, he said.
Vice President Rich Gruber
Without naming specific items to accomplish, Gruber would like the council to continue its momentum from 2017.
“If you look at what we’ve accomplished in the last two to three years, it’s really remarkable for this city,” Gruber said. “It speaks volumes about the positive things happening in the community.”
Throughout the year, the council helped bring in and approve hundreds of family-supporting jobs and retained many businesses in the area. The GM site was sold, and there are promises of redevelopment, growth and a new beginning, Gruber said.
“We’ve got a lot going for us right now, and my hope and prayer is we can continue that momentum,” he said.
Jorgensen would like to hold a “south-side summit” to address the “food desert” in that part of town.
Last month, the Pick ‘n Save on Center Avenue closed. Some complained this left them with few nearby options for grocery shopping.
Jorgensen said that’s “unacceptable.” He and Marklein would like to organize a listening session to gather input from south-side residents and business owners on how the city might help the area, Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen also would like to bring in more family-supporting jobs—ones that pay more than minimum wage.
“I really want to focus on getting those jobs back,” he said.
The council’s job is not to concentrate on specific issues, but it’s tough not to be excited for what’s next at the former General Motors property, Wolfe said.
“It’s a heck of a lot of acreage right in the middle of our community, and I’m just really excited that we’re going to see something happening there because its potential is huge,” he said.
It’s unclear to what extent the city council will be involved with the property’s development, but it could include approving road construction and other infrastructure or approving deals to entice developers, Wolfe said.
He hopes the property eventually houses several entities, not just one like General Motors before. He said he would be happy to be on a subcommittee focused on the property’s development.
Whatever businesses move in will create jobs, and Janesville needs more housing. The council could help with that through rezoning and approving residential developments, Wolfe said.
Williams envisions a slew of issues the city will address in 2018.
Besides the council’s involvement with the former General Motors property, the council will have to make sure upcoming Milwaukee Street work, including the bridge replacement, is handled correctly, Williams said.
The city will soon have two hotels coming in, including one downtown that will replace a public parking lot. The council will have to consider how these developments will work with traffic and existing parking, which is a new concern for downtown, Williams said.
“I guess it’s a good problem to have if it’s getting busy enough that it seems there’s not enough parking spaces,” he said.
The Interstate 90/39 expansion and how that affects Janesville residents is a concern, especially as ramps and city roads are closed to accommodate the work, Williams said.