Archive for Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Baldwin City Council restates purpose of capital improvement plan

Baldwin City Hall

Baldwin City Hall

March 4, 2014

The Baldwin City Council approved rewording Monday of a 2013 bond issue to allow use of leftover money on other projects, but it was the capital improvement plan approved last month that dominated the night's discussion.

The $2.3 million 2013 bond issue was approved to pay off a temporary note that financed the 2012 North Six Street project. The wording approved Monday allows about $600,000 of unspent bond funds to be used for City Hall renovations and drainage projects at Second and Elm streets, Third and Freemont streets and Second and Ames streets.

The discussion swung to the recently approved CIP when resident Bill Harmon addressed the council during public comment. Harmon said he understood the importance of a capital improvement project list but questioned why more public input wasn’t sought in developing a $46.8 million list he wondered whether the city could afford.

Harmon said he didn’t think the list needed a do-over but requested the council schedule some form of public meeting on the CIP.

Council members agreed some form of public outreach was needed and agreed a press release on the CIP should be prepared. Mayor Marilyn Pearse and City Administrator Chris Lowe said the CIP was discussed at three council meetings and developed in five council work sessions.

The CIP was a five-year plan for 2014 to 2018, Lowe said. The 2014 projects were listed in the current year’s budget, while those slotted for the next four years have a project total cost in the CIP of $18.2 million.

The document the council approved does list more projects for 2019 to 2023, which balloons the total by another $27.65 million. That list is less refined and fewer details are included. Lowe said those out years included such things as a $4 million aquatic center in recognition the current pool will be 25 years old near the end of that period.

Pearse and council members repeated their positions when approving the CIP last month. Those were:

• The CIP was a planning tool that helps establish priorities and alerts council members to current and future needs. Projects can be added or struck from the list as the city’s needs change.

• No funding has been approved for any of the projects from 2015 on. Everything on the list will have to be approved for funding in future annual budgets and again when the council is asked to give final approval for individual projects.

• The projected costs of projects on the list were just placeholders. Council members said they would not support some of the projects should their cost be that listed in the CIP.

• The city would use multiple revenue sources to pay for future projects and not just property tax, for example utility improvements would be made in part with rate-generated revenue.

Councilwoman Christi Darnell said she supported the CIP as a sound fiscal planning tool, comparing it to a family saving for the purchase of a new car in two to three years. The council’s goal was to avoid being blindsided by future big-ticket needs, she said.

Councilwoman Christi Darnell said she supported the CIP as a sound fiscal planning tool, comparing it to a family saving for the purchase of a new car in two to three years. The council’s goal was to avoid being blindsided by future big-ticket needs, she said.

CIPs are not new to the city, Councilman Ken Wagner said. What is new is the city’s sharing the list with the public. He said former city administrator Jeff Dingman kept a 10-year CIP on his computer he updated annually.

One item on Dingman’s list illustrated the changeable nature of CIPs, Lowe said.

“When I walked in the door, there was to be $600,000 of improvement to City Hall to be done in 2011,” he said. “That’s a perfect example of how projects get dumped off and different things will be added.”

Lowe cautioned about scheduling a public informational meeting on the CIP because that could reinforce the misconception the council soon would be making decisions on its projects. Instead, he said he would prepare a press release on the document.

Comments

Jeff Dingman 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I kept that list as a road-map of projects as they were identified to me so that there could be some discussion of planning for them during the annual budget discussions. Formalizing a CIP in the public forum is a great step in forward planning. It keeps the discussion in the forefront, not just during budget preparation, and I think will prove invaluable to the city in the years to come.

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