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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 14.0° F  Light Snow
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Madison could have dueling police academies
Training centers galore
Scott McDonnell: 'Kathleen is good at keeping a secret.'
Scott McDonnell: 'Kathleen is good at keeping a secret.'

The Madison Police Department wants to borrow $3.8 million over the next two years to expand its new east-side training facility, at 5702 Femrite Dr.

At the same time, Madison College (a.k.a. MATC) is asking voters to borrow money to provide many of the same facilities. Do taxpayers need to foot the bill for both?

The city used to lease space from Madison College for its training academy, at a cost of $48,000 a year. Then, earlier this year, the city turned a former printing building into a new academy, which trains an average of 20 cadets a year.

Now the MPD wants to upgrade the property, adding classroom space, an indoor firing range, and defense and arrest tactics training space.

"It will allow us to have our facility to do all of Madison PD's own training," says Capt. Sue Williams, who oversees the department's training. "It would improve our ability to have in-service, pre-service and specialized training...all at the same time."

But on the Nov. 2 ballot, Madison College is asking voters in a 12-county region to approve spending $133 million to create many of the same facilities (see Mad Talk). If the referendum is approved, the college will renovate its burn building, which fire departments, including Madison's, use to practice. It would also construct an indoor firing range and tactical training house at the Truax Campus, as well as a vehicle course (which Madison will continue to lack) and classrooms.

While no police agency currently rents training space from Madison College, spokeswoman Ellen Foley says the school is open to such arrangements.

The MPD also hopes to raise revenue by renting its new facilities to other police agencies. Says Williams: "We think we can do wonderful things not only for our agency but other area law enforcement agencies as well."

Madison Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway says the duplication isn't ideal, but in the long run, it makes more sense for Madison to own a facility it can rent than to be a renter itself. "Are we potentially getting into a situation where we'd be competing with [Madison College] for offering training?" she asks. "I hope not too much."

So far the mayor and Board of Estimates have approved the upgrades, but the Common Council will have to sign off on the deal with the budget in November.

Following Falk

After County Executive Kathleen Falk shocked everyone Monday by announcing she plans to step down mid-term next April, attention turned immediately to who would fill her shoes. The election next spring would be for a two-year term instead of the usual four years.

No candidates have yet declared, but pundits are floating lots of names.

The heir apparent is County Board Chair Scott McDonell, who seems blindsided by the news and is still deciding whether to run. "She and I had been talking about the budget, so I was just as surprised as anybody," he says. "Kathleen is good at keeping a secret."

Other well-known names being discussed are former Ald. Zach Brandon, former Mayor Paul Soglin, Falk's 2009 challenger Nancy Mistele, and county supervisors Kurt Schlicht, Dave Wiganowsky and Al Matano.

"There's lots of speculation. Who knows who might come out of the woodwork?" says Supv. Eileen Bruskewitz. "I think we're in for some real interesting politics in the next six months."

Nancy's Tea Party

One candidate many expect to run for county executive is conservative Nancy Mistele, who lost to Falk in 2009.

Mistele says she's thinking about it but is preoccupied with a new venture. This week, she launched The Founders' Compass, which she calls a registry for Tea Party groups nationally. Its goal: to help expand the movement, elect conservatives and "file suit against the corrupt elected officials."

Her devotion to the new movement might keep her out of the county executive race. "I have to be sensitive that this is my baby, and I'm not going to give it short shrift."

Mayor Dave's priorities

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz released his draft operating budget this week, calling for a 2.9% increase in the tax levy, which would hike taxes on the average home by 4.8%.

The total budget weighs in at $247 million in spending, 72% of which would be raised through the property tax levy.

The mayor is seeking to increase funding for community services by $200,000 and fund a community development grant writer who will look for more. He also wants to create a crime unit to deal with habitual offenders. And he's keeping Madison City Channel alive, despite a loss of funding, by integrating it with the city's IT department.

But on the chopping block is a request for additional positions in the police department. No new city vehicles will be purchased next year.

Ald. Rhodes-Conway is pleased with what she's seen so far but says "the devil is in the details."

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