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Crozet streetscape grant prompts questions about County’s capital projects budget
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Sean Tubbs | Friday, November 06, 2009 at 12:08 a.m.
Crozet-streetscape The streetscape improvements are called for in the Crozet Master Plan

In the face of significant revenue shortfalls, Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said Wednesday that at least some projects in the County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) should be scrutinized to see if public investment is still warranted.

Earlier this year, the County removed $100 million from the program through FY2014 in order to balance the five-year financial plan. This week, supervisors were told to expect another $100 million in project cuts and to prepare for a heavily revised capital budget focusing only on maintenance and debt service.

The topic came up during a public hearing on an application for a $250,000 grant from the federal government to help pay for streetscape improvements in downtown Crozet. The County has previously received $300,000 in transportation enhancement money (TEA-21) for previous phases of the project. The money will pay for sidewalks, drainage improvements, decorative lights and benches.

The total cost of the project is around $2.5 million, according to Albemarle County’s Chief Planner, David Benish . If awarded the grant, the County will pay for around 80 percent of the project with taxpayer dollars. Benish said the Crozet streetscape is one of the higher priority recommendations called for in the Crozet Master Plan.

Boyd expressed concern at the amount of money that the County has invested in the project. He said he was not sure if this was appropriate spending given the County’s ongoing budget issues.

“We have two master plans, and we seem to forget about the other one at Pantops that has absolutely no funding for it,” said Boyd. “At the same time, we’re throwing millions of dollars into Crozet.”  Meanwhile, he pointed out that improvements called for in the Pantops Master Plan have not yet been funded.

Benish said many of the Pantops improvements are anticipated to be paid for with proffers from developers such as intersection improvements and at least $1 million in sidewalk improvements. Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) pointed out that the Crozet Master Plan was adopted five years ago, whereas the Pantops Master Plan was only adopted in March 2008.

“Wait until we get to Places29 and the tab for infrastructure we’re going to have there,” Slutzky said.

Boyd said he wondered how many previous decisions on capital spending will need to be reconsidered as the County’s budget climate continues to worsen .

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said once the County begins to apply for grants for projects, it cannot break that kind of commitment.

County Attorney Larry Davis said if the project is not finished, the County would have to return the other $300,000 received through the federal program.

The Board voted 6-0 to support the grant application. Boyd said he could support this application, but that he wanted to apply more scrutiny during the development of the FY2011 CIP.

“I’m going to ask as part of the CIP oversight committee review that we look at these multi-millions worth of monies that are sitting around for previously approved projects and whether or not we can continue to do those,” Boyd said. However, he acknowledged that projects that are tied to grant funds will likely have to go forward.

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