Update on Day Center Process at the Messner site

By Heidi Wegleitner, Dane County Supervisor — Resolution 248 to authorize the county purchase of the Messner building at 1326 E. Washington for a day center was introduced by late referral by County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan in late September. I have done my best to slow the process down to allow the county to receive and process neighborhood input  from the October 7, 2015 neighborhood meeting on the proposed development.

The neighborhood meeting drew about 150 interested community members.  Sup. John Hendrick estimated that 30% of attendees were supportive, 30% were opposed, and 40% were awaiting more information to form an opinion. Sup. Hendrick and I are working with county staff to address many of the questions and concerns raised in the meeting. Unfortunately, most questions cannot be given definite answers because we don’t yet have design plans, an operator, or binding conditions on the use that may be put in place by City Plan Commission.

This level of uncertainty is challenging for many in the neighborhood, but it also leaves much room for the neighborhood and other stakeholders to help shape the project and recommend conditions to address neighborhood concerns.

Madison Alder Zellers and I hope to convene a panel of City and County staff for the neighborhood steering committee in late October in advance of the County Board vote.

The City requires a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate a day shelter in this zoning district — traditional employment (TE). The City Plan Commission, on which Alder Zellers sits, decides whether to issue a CUP. Additionally, the City requires a day shelter operator to comply with day shelter regulations that specify certain plans regarding transportation, screening from neighboring sites, etc.

Alder Rummel, Alder Zellers, Brenda Konkel and I worked together on the day shelter regulations last yaer. The County’s purchase is not contingent on obtaining the CUP, but the county cannot operate a day center at Messner’s unless it gets the CUP.  Before a CUP application is submitted, the County will select an architecture and engineering firm that will draft design plans for the project and represent the County in the City’s CUP process. Responses to that Request for Proposal (RFP) are due in early November. The County will also issue a new RFP for a day resource center operator and plans to select an operator before the end of the year.

Previously, the County had selected SHINE 608 to operate the day resource center in 2013. When the County’s efforts to site the resource center were delayed by the Town of Madison’s legal challenge, SHINE 608 withdrew their RFP response. It appeared it would be difficult to obtain a service provider to operate the day center without having a solid site and timeline for opening.

The CUP application is expected to be filed in March. If the CUP is obtained, construction will take place over the summer and the day resource center will open sometime in the fall of 2016.

The Messner site meets or exceeds the site recommendations of the Feb. 2013 Homeless Issues Committee day resource center recommendations. That said, the announcement of the purchase prior to effective neighborhood engagement has bred mistrust among many in the neighborhood. It is unfortunate that the County Executive did not work closer with Ald. Zellers and me regarding the offer to purchase because I think some of the opposition, fear, and mistrust could have been avoided.

I plan to work closely with the entities awarded the design and operation RFPs, neighborhood steering committee, and homeless advocates to cultivate a respectful, transparent, and productive planning process.

Key Dates for the Messner Purchase and Day Center Process

Meeting dates are subject to change, so please check dane.legistar.com for the official posted meeting agendas.

October 20: Health and Human Needs Committee, also Public Works Committee (separate meetings, expected to begin at 5:30pm)

October 26: 5:30pm, Personnel & Finance Committee 

November 5: County Board, 7pm in room 201, City–County Building (CCB) 

October–December: Issue and award Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for design plans and day resource center operations

January–March 2016: Draft design and operations plans with key stakeholders, re-application meetings with City staff

April–June 2016: Conditional Use Permit (CUP) reviews by Plan Commission and Urban Design Committee, revise plans to comply with CUP, hire contractor and begin construction

June–September 2016: Construction, service provider planning

October–December 2016: Construction ends, final site and operations preparation