By Sean Tubbs
Monday, March 22, 2010
reviewed the details of the city’s $33.85 million capital improvement program (CIP) budget during a work session last week. Council made several revisions to the budget related to the city’s transportation infrastructure, its inventory of parkland and the number of affordable living choices within city limits.
Highlights from the work session:
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Transit service increases deferred; Huja pushes for bus route for Greenbrier neighborhood
In February, CAT Director Bill Watterson proposed several changes to bus routes in order to increase service. One of them involved spending an additional $110,000 to operate three routes (3, 4 & 6) on a twice-hourly basis.
said he did not want to expand service at this time.
“I would not mind taking this amount of money and adding it to our [economic] downturn fund,” Brown said.
said she supported Watterson’s proposal because it would be a relatively affordable way to increase the attractiveness of riding the bus. However, Norris said he sided with Brown about holding off on expanding service right now, and Council agreed with his suggestion to set aside the funds.
had also previously requested that staff create a route to serve Charlottesville’s northern neighborhoods.
“Is it fair not to have the transit system in the northern part of town?” Huja asked. He said the demographics of the Greenbrier neighborhood would add more “choice” riders to the system, referring to people who can afford to drive but might not if they had an option to take transit.
Watterson studied three possible ways to alter Route 9 in order to accomplish Huja’s goal, but said none of them would work because the route could not be completed in under an hour.
Another proposal to alter Route 1 to serve Mill Creek and the
in the county is also unlikely to happen because some Councilors expressed concern Albemarle County would not provide funding.
“I got a pretty clear indication Council was not enthusiastic about that one,” Watterson said.
New life for Crow Pool?
Major decisions about the future of the city’s aquatic facilities have been made in the past few years. A previous Council agreed to close the Crow indoor pool at Walker Upper Elementary School and use the savings to build a new Smith pool at Buford Middle School. At the same time, the City agreed to contribute to the capital costs for a new
Piedmont Family YMCA
in part because the city would no longer have to pay for the ongoing operational costs at Crow.
Crow Pool had been expected to close this fall as the new Smith pool comes online. However, Parks and Recreation Director Brian Daly said the YMCA is interested in renting the pool until their new facility is ready.
Currently, the YMCA rents the pool for 24 hours a week at a discounted fee. Under this proposal, the YMCA would begin paying the full cost of operating the pool.
“It would be best for us if they had their own building,” Daly said. He estimated the YMCA will have their plans finished by June. Construction is expected to take at least 18 months.
said a decision was not necessary from Council until Smith opens in September.
Future uncertain for City payment to keep McIntire Recycling Center open
In June, the City’s contract with the
Rivanna Solid Waste Authority
will expire. The proposed budget anticipates that it will not be renewed, potentially saving the city $248,928 in “solid waste disposal fees.”
However, that means that the City’s continued participation in the
McIntire Recycling Center
is in question. All city residents have the option to recycle items in curbside bins, though that service does not include disposal of batteries, electronics, and other hazardous materials.
“The City and the County need to make a decision whether or not to keep the McIntire Recycling Center open,” Mueller said. “We don’t know what the cost of keeping [the center] open.”
Council made no decision at this work session, but is expected to take up the matter at another work session in April.
Council discusses other items in CIP
The capital improvement program for FY2011 is $33.85 million, more than double for that of the current fiscal year. The increase is almost entirely due to a $16.5 million payment from the federal government to pay for a portion of the
Meadowcreek Parkway interchange
Budget Director Leslie Beauregard said the rest of the capital improvement program is beginning to slow down, in part because of the reductions in revenue.
“Our strategy over time has been when the times are good, we put the money to one-time use, and now we know that those one-time funds have dried up,” Beauregard said.
The city is expecting to raise $6.9 million through a bond issue later this year. That number will increase to $16.86 million in FY2012 in order to pay for a new fire station on Fontaine Road.
Councilors had the option to eliminate items from the CIP, and they made several decisions.
Councilor Huja questioned spending $200,000 on repairs to the downtown mall near the Omni. Szakos also said the city might be able to defer spending for another year. Norris also agreed it was not a high priority for this year.
The capital budget for FY2011 does not include funding for a $3 million project to add sidewalks, bike lanes and drainage improvements for Old Lynchburg Road. City Manager Gary O”Connell said the project has been delayed in part because the project is not fully designed. A contribution of $500,000 is expected in FY2012 and design work will continue.
“There’s an impression in the community that this project is just going to start,” O’Connell said. “It’s never been planned to do that. We have to wait until the money catches up.”
The city had expected to eventually receive a million dollars for the project from a proffer from Albemarle County’s rezoning of the Biscuit Run property. The funding was lost when that land was acquired by the Commonwealth to create a new state park.
Council commits additional funds to build more bike lanes
In February, Neighborhood Development Services Director
Jim Tolbert told Council that there are very few opportunities to create additional bike lanes in Charlottesville
without removing on-street parking or widening roads.
At the work session, Councilor Huja expressed his dissatisfaction.
“There are gaps in the network, and I think they need to be dealt with,” Huja said.
Tolbert said he would be bringing a proposal to Council this summer that would address the possibility of removing on-street parking and widening roads to increase the network of bike lanes.
Brown, an avid cyclist, said one road on which he would like to see bike lanes is Emmett Street, but he acknowledged doing so would cost money.
“There might be a plan that could accomplish [adding bike lanes] but it’s not a $25,000 project,” Brown said. The current year’s capital budget set aside that amount for “bicycle infrastructure” and the money was used in part to develop special signals to allow cyclists to trigger traffic lights.
Huja suggested putting aside money now in order to pay for those projects in the future.
“Symbolically, I think it is important to set aside some money to show our intent that we’re going to do something,” Huja said.
Council agreed to take $50,000 from a line item for “traffic improvements” to dedicate for additional bike lanes.
Council may spend more money on parkland acquisition
The proposed capital budget sets aside $250,000 to acquire more land for parks, an increase from the $100,000 set aside for this year.
The figure for this year may go higher because of the possibility of acquiring an athletic field and because of other opportunities being suggested by parks director Daly.
The City is currently negotiating to purchase Davis Field, a rectangular field off of Park Street, but the $250,000 set aside in the proposed budget might not cover the acquisition costs. Daly said he had a solution, but did not want to discuss it in open session.
“While the $250,000 is great, my counsel to Council would be that there are a lot of potential acquisition opportunities out there that enhance connectivity and do a lot of forest protection, and it may not be advisable to spend all of the funding in one location,” Daly said.
When Norris asked if Council should increase the amount set aside to buy parks, Daly said he could not talk about it without going into a closed session.
Mayor Norris seeks increase in funding for affordable housing
The City dedicated $1 million in the current capital budget for the
Charlottesville Housing Fund
. Next year, Mayor Norris wants to increase that amount to $1.4 million. He said both the Planning Commission and the Housing Advisory Committee endorsed the increase.
“I’d like to see us go on record as endorsing that dollar figure, however it comes together,” Norris said.
Council held a brief discussion of where the funding would come from to pay for the increase, but did not reach a consensus at this meeting.
Council will be on hand for a budget forum
this Wednesday night at CitySpace
. The public is invited to ask questions of Council and budget staff. The next
budget work session will be held on Wednesday, March 31
second public hearing on the budget
will be on April 5 in City Council chambers. Council will adopt the budget
at a special meeting
on April 12.
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