The Charlottesville City Council reviewed the budget for
City Manager Gary O’Connell’s proposed Capital Improvement Program
at its work session on March 13, 2008. O’Connell began his review of the Capital Improvement Budget by calling attention to two major items – $5 million from last year’s budget surplus for a new Smith pool and his recommendation for a $63.1 million bond issue.
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The five-year CIP has projects totaling $99.4 million, with $24.4 million to be spent during FY2009. The bond issue will be spread across the whole of the five-year period. O’Connell suggested a few times throughout the discussion, that the CIP will be among the first items cut if the City does have a revenue shortfall next fall.
The Parks and Recreation Department will receive just over a third of the CIP budget for this year. The increase is due in part due to Smith Pool, which is funded by a carryover from last year’s budget surplus. $3 million will be spent on the replacement of Onesty Pool in Meade Park.
asked why the agency was the primary beneficiary of the CIP this year, and asked if that accurately reflected Council’s priorities. Councilor
reminded Huja that the City’s capital needs change each year. O’Connell said until recently the school system was the primary recipient of the CIP.
“Our parks and [recreation] system has gone to pot,” O’Connell said. “If the schools were sitting here with a $10 million school renovation project, I suspect that would get a high priority but they don’t have that need.”
Huja also asked about a $500,000 line item projected in FY2013 for renovations for the Central Library on Market Street. O’Connell said the money was being placed there as a projected need, but that the full project would likely cost over $20 million. He said a discussion about how to share the costs with the County would be needed in the coming years.
A more immediate project is the $9.7 million Ivy Road/Fontaine Area Fire Station, which O’Connell said is currently being designed and planned. “We’re in the midst of some architectural work, we’re in the midst of detailed discussions with UVa at the Fontaine Research park,” O’Connell said. Part of the cost estimate includes an access to Fontaine Road, and the City Manager said may end up being cheaper than initially suggested.
Councilors spent some discussing the ongoing mall renovation project, and O’Connell said there was a need to speed the project up given that growing business concern about how the repairs will affect their trade. Brown said the City could save money on the project by limiting it to the mall rather than the side streets. Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Services, said the $7.5 million project focuses on the mall, but that two projects are in the works.
“Contractually we are obligated to do some improvements on 5th Street E in association with the Holsinger building. We’ve held off until the decision [on the second Mall crossing] has been made, and we’ve agreed to do 2nd Street by the new [Landmark] hotel between it and Live Arts. Those two we have to do, and they’re in there,” Tolbert said.
Councilor Huja said he did not support spending $750,000 on a “way-finding” initiative, and Mayor
agreed. O’Connell defended the program and asked Council to give him a chance to present it to them. He said he’s like to take Council to Staunton to show them how that community improved its signage to help tourists and citizens.
Councilor Brown sounded surprised that the item was still in the budget. “We talked last year about cutting it, but we never talked affirmatively about why it should be in the budget again,” he said. After some discussion, Council agreed to keep the item in the budget in principal, subject to approval when O’Connell does present the initiative later this year.
City Manager defends economic development fund
On the heels of recent scrutiny by the Daily Progress into the City’s $4.3 million economic development fund, City Manager Gary O’Connell told Council they would soon be asked to consider formal guidelines for its usage.
“We think it’s important that City Council review and formally approve guidelines for expenditures,” O’Connell said. “We won’t spend a dime out of it until we get your approval.” O’Connell said the fund was started over ten years ago to help the City give incentives to firms that wanted to invest here. Recent expenditures from the fund include $160,000 for the Water Street design competition, $200,000 for a study of the Water Street garage and $45,000 for an ongoing study of parking in downtown Charlottesville.
O’Connell he thought the fund would be useful in the near future to help the City weather a downturn, perhaps by investing in a workforce housing program. O’Connell asked Council if he they wanted to discuss this project during their forthcoming work session on how to use the City’s Affordable Housing Fund. Norris said he would prefer to hold two separate work sessions, and wanted more information on the guidelines.
Mayor Norris questioned whether the City should continue contributing to the fund, given that it currently has a balance of over $4 million. O’Connell said he could see the fund being depleted in the next three years, and hinted that the Planning Commission will soon see a project that he said would use some of the money.
Timeline for podcast:
00:37 – Gary O’Connell defends the City’s $4.3 million economic development fund, and says Council will soon review and approve guidelines for expenditure.
08:40 – Discussion moved to the CIP budget
13:40 – Councilor Satyendra Huja asked if the percentage amounts being spent in each area reflected the priorities of City Council, prompting a discussion about what those priorities should be
18:03 – O’Connell reviews education projects in the CIP
19:40- O’Connell reviews facility improvement projects in the CIP, and is asked by Huja about the Central Library improvement project
19:54 – Mayor Dave Norris says the discussion should focus on CIP projects for FY2009
20:24 – O’Connell reviews public safety projects in the CIP, including a $9.7 million Ivy Road / Fontaine Area replacement project
23:47 – Discussion enters into the Mall renovation project enters
25:39 – Councilor David Brown asks if the Mall renovation project includes the side streets, and he is answered by Jim Tolbert of Neighborhood Development Services.
27:47 – Councilor Julian Taliaferro asks if the city can save money by using local brick, and is answered by Tolbert.
29:40 – Huja asks about the $1.75 million West Main Streetscape project
30:32 – Huja asks about the $3 million project to improve Old Lynchburg Road
32:57 – Norris asks about the $309,000 to be spent in FY2009 on sidewalk repair
34:29 – Norris asks where funding to implement recommendations from the Pedestrian Safety Committee would come from
35:43 – Discussion moves to bondable projects for Parks and Recreation Department
38:37 – Mayor Norris questions whether City should continue contributing to the Economic Development (Strategic) Initiatives
40:02 – Discussion moves to the $120,000 in Neighborhood CIP funds – funds the City grants to neighborhood associations for projects they initiate and oversee
41:15 – Councilor Huja says he is opposed to a $750,000 way-finding initiative
45:09 – Discussion moves to non-bondable projects for Parks and Recreation
48:09 – Huja calls for some way to help the City acquire more land for parkland, prompting discussion that eventually leads to talk of remediation for the land in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. O’Connell gets Council to agree in principal on dedicating money from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to pay for this land.
53:07 – Norris asks where money for sustainability initiatives are reflected in the budget
54:47 – Brown asks if CIP reflects Council’s recent discussions of creating a stormwater fee