Archive for Tuesday, February 18, 2014

$18.1 million Baldwin City plan includes police station, senior center, theater

Baldwin City Hall

Baldwin City Hall

February 18, 2014

The Baldwin City Council on Monday unanimously approved an $18.1 million, four-year capital improvement plan while advising the public not to read too much into that dollar figure.

Mayor Marilyn Pearse said the CIP was a planning document that would be a tool for staff when preparing budgets and for the council in establishing priorities. None of the proposed projects have been approved, and the CIP could be adjusted as the city’s circumstances and priorities changed, she said.

“None of the dollar amounts are relevant,” she said. “They are just placeholders.”

The approved CIP — which includes a consolidated public works headquarters, a new or upgraded police station, senior center and completion of the theater in the Lumberyard Arts Center — lists projects for the years 2015 through 2018 and was developed during council work sessions that started with an August retreat. Although titled a four-year CIP, the document lists additional projects for the years 2019-2023, but with fewer specifics.

Council members reinforced the mayor’s comment that the CIP should not be viewed as the last word on the projects the city will undertake in the next four years, or their costs.

Council member Christi Darnell said before any project moved forward the council would have to make two additional approvals, once during annual budget considerations and again when actual projects come before the council for approval.

With the qualifications on the record, Pearse said the council spent a good deal of time on the plan with input of city department heads.

Topping the list of non-utility project proposals was a “new/renovated” police headquarters slotted for 2016 with a plugged in cost of $2.1 million.

Pearse said the current police station at 811 Eighth St. was too small for the department’s need and the building had structural problems. She wanted to keep the police station downtown and noted the CIP also called for public works vacating its building at 605 High St. for a new consolidated public works headquarters at the city’s Orange Street yard. There could be an opportunity to renovate the High Street public works office into a police station, she said.

“We already own the property,” she said. “And it is a property that is already off the tax roles.”

Councilman Ken Wagner said a new police station was the top need the council identified at its initial retreat. The current station has roof problems and a failing wall, he said.

“I think it’s needed,” he said. “Some people are reputedly looking at that $2.1 million. I will say I can’t support a $2.1 million police station, but I don’t think we’ll have to spend anything like that. The beauty of the CIP is it’s a planning document. There’s a $4 million aquatic center on there (for between 2019 and 2023). That’s not going to happen.”

The proposed senior center with a $500,000 estimated cost, which is slotted for 2015, would provide a place to serve meals and host senior activities.

The CIP lists the Lumberyard theater completion for 2016, an inclusion that highlights the working nature of the document. The Lumberyard board has met with the city once and has not yet agreed to a partner with the city for the theater project. Councilman Shane Sharkey said discussions on a possible agreement would continue on a monthly basis.

As written, the CIP lists far-reaching upgrades throughout the city with such projects as $225,000 in new sidewalks, $850,000 in upgrades at existing city parks and $100,000 to develop a Signal Ridge Park, and nearly $2 million in enhancements to the city’s electrical generation and distribution systems.

The city would tap into multiple revenue sources to pay for the projects. Contributing most of the revenue would be the city’s general fund, but water, sewer and electrical funds would contribute to projects specific to or benefitting those utilities.

Councilman Jason Mock, chairman of the council’s utility committee, said now that the CIP had identified $4.1 million in needed sewer projects from 2015 through 2018, the committee would start putting numbers to the rate increase needed to pay for them.

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