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Friday, November 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 28.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Madison lacks preservation planner at crucial time

With the recession, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has had a freeze on filling any new positions, absent his approval. But are some positions too important to leave vacant?

Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. recently asked the mayor to fill the position of preservation planner. "There's a lot going on, especially downtown, related to development," says Adam Plotkin, president of Capitol Neighborhoods. "The most immediate one is the Edgewater Hotel development."

Among other things, the preservation planner works with the Landmarks Commission, reviewing any projects involving historic structures as well as any projects near historic structures -- such as the Edgewater Hotel project.

Plotkin says the city planning staff have done a good job filling in for Kitty Rankin, who left the job last December after 30 years. But he thinks projects in historic neighborhoods need the expertise of someone trained in historic preservation.

Cieslewicz recently responded by saying there just isn't enough money to fill the position right now.

"Since I imposed the hiring freeze in the spring, over 50 hiring requests have come through my office," the mayor wrote in an August letter. "I have turned down about two-thirds of those requests, including this one. Trust me, none of these requests are without merit, but our fiscal situation is so dire that I have to say no to many requests I would much rather allow to be filled."

Ald. Mike Verveer understands the mayor's rationale, but regrets that the position is vacant, and hopes it will be filled later this year.

"The preservation planner is an important job," Verveer says. "It would be nice to have a full-time, experienced preservation planner assisting us with the Edgewater. But I don't think it's absolutely necessary."

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