Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is out with his $63 million capital budget proposal for next year. It includes from new funds for mental health initiatives to new flooding management plans.
He’s also announced a massive new solar panel project at the Dane County airport.
The new solar panel project is a partnership between Dane County and Madison Gas and Electric and will become the biggest solar park in the county.
Parisi says inaction from federal and state government spurred them to go forward with the plan.
“We think its incumbent upon us in local government to do everything we can to address this issue,” Parisi says
The plan would fill 21 acres at the Dane County regional airport with more than 20,000 solar panels
MG&E estimates the panels will generate enough renewable energy to account for about a quarter of all energy used by county facilities. MG&E will own the solar facility and lease airport land from the county.
The FAA and Wisconsin’s public service commission both need to approve the project before construction can begin. If that happens, construction is planned to start next year.
Parisi also announced his proposed capital budget for next year.
After criticism from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin over what he sees as the county’s failure to prevent August’s historic flooding, Parisi’s proposal doubles down on lake management.
His proposal includes nearly 9 million dollars to go toward acquiring land to return it to its natural, wetland state.
“One acre of wetland can hold up to 325,000 gallons of water,” Parisi Says. “This is natural flood control and we must work with nature if we are going to address the issue in a comprehensive manner,” Parisi says.
That nine million is half of the money going toward flood mitigation and prevention in his capital budget. Included in the other nine million dollars would be used to buy three additional sandbagging machines, weed cutters to increase water flow in flooded areas and an additional air boat for the Sheriff’s department to help with water rescues.
On the human services side, $320,000 would go toward expanding Journey Mental Health’s mobile mental health crisis program. That program currently has two staffers at MPD to help officers deescalate situations where they’re responding to someone in a mental health crisis.
The new money would create three new staff positions similar to that. One of them would be responsible for more rural parts of the county, and embedded in the Dane County Sheriff’s office.
The budget also looks to quell the worsening opioid epidemic. It would put $125,000 toward program that connects people with drug addictions to recovery coaches.
Those coaches, who are also recovering from addiction, mentor people in the hospital for drug overdoses. They help patients get into treatment.
The money would also go toward offshoot programs, including one that pairs recently incarcerated people struggling with addiction with mentors, and another that does the same for pregnant women.
“We all believe its vital that we address the root causes of the challenges that people may be dealing with,” Parisi says.
Parisi’s proposal would also increase county employee salaries by three and a half percent next year.