News

Mayor slashes capital projects list for ‘08

New senior center, Quay apartments are in; new police and court building is out.

Outside, the water rose.

But inside City Hall, that sinking feeling – of rising community need eclipsing city resources – set in long before the onset of Monday’s protracted rainstorm.

“The need to change direction has become more apparent over the last three years,” said Mayor Darlene Kordonowy in a memo to councilors Monday. “Today, I ask us to pause – let us reassess the city’s direction and set a new course.”

That course could be vastly different than the one previously plotted by the city, if the council agrees to a proposal from city staff to trim $20 million from the six-year Capital Facilities Plan.

At $52 million, the proposed, slimmer CFP includes funding for a new senior center, purchase of the Quay Bainbridge apartments and phased construction of the downtown Streetscape, among other changes.

Funds still would come from a variety of sources, including both councilmanic and voted bonds, Local Improvement District funding, revenue from developer incentives and grants.

The proposed CFP defers to a later date construction of a new police and court facility, as well as several road, park, shoreline and non-motorized improvements (see box).

Kordonowy said completing all of the projects on the city’s wish list isn’t feasible within six years because doing so would raise costs to “unsustainable” levels.

Over the past four years, the city on average completed $6.6 million worth of capital projects, all of which must be listed within the city’s CFP to legally receive funding.

The previous CFP would have meant an average of $12 million in annual capital projects over the six years; under that plan, the city’s debt service would increase 155 percent over the same period.

As in previous years, the initial 2008 CFP – at $101 million – was considered overambitious by most, including members of staff and the council.

It’s been trimmed several times since, but Monday’s shift was by far the most substantial.

Councilman Nezam Tooloee wondered about the timing of the changes, and their simultaneous release to councilors and the press.

“It gives one the impression that this is more about politics and spin than policy,” he said in an email.

He said the shift was surprising given that the administration “vigorously” defended the CFP when it was first unveiled. Operating costs associated with growth at the city continue to be worrisome, he said.

“I find it troubling that it explains the change in course based on sustainability (a great buzzword) instead of facing the problem (the city’s inability to deliver capital projects),” Tooloee said. “I am not on board with the levels or mix of capital expenditures, or of funding sources, that it contemplates – these are major decisions that we should be debating all year.”

The new proposal essentially extends the CFP to a 10-year plan to give the city a longer period of time over which to fund needed projects.

The council will finalize the CFP and the 2008 budget in the next week, beginning with an all-day meeting that starts at 9 a.m. today at City Hall. The $55.3 million budget is scheduled for approval at the council’s Dec. 12 meeting.

No budget amendments have been made to this point because of a new budget process that differs drastically from previous ones. Instead of several all-day meetings, the council will propose and make changes to the document during today’s lone all-day meeting.

Previous budget discussions this year have taken place, along with public comment periods, in workshops.

In addition to considering the myriad other projects and causes seeking funding, the council will have its first formal discussion today about a request from local housing agencies to buy and preserve as affordable housing the Quay, a 71-unit apartment complex in Winslow.

The city is being asked to pitch in $3.95 million toward the effort. The Quay’s inclusion in the new proposed CFP is good news for Quay residents and affordable housing advocates. Those pulling for other projects, Kordonowy said, may be upset by the other changes.

“I know it’s going to be unpopular to defer these and other very important projects,” she said. “I also know it’s the fiscally responsible course for our city.”

************

Washed away

The city on Monday proposed cutting the six-year Capital Facilities Plan by $20 million. The revised $52 million CFP includes the addition of some new projects, and the deferment of others to a later date.

Included in the plan:

• A new senior center funded by voted bonds, councilmanic bonds, donations and grants.

• Purchase of the Quay Bainbridge apartments, funded by voted and councilmanic bonds.

• A phased construction for Winslow Way that would defer work west of Madison Avenue. Funding would come from councilmanic bonds, Local Improvement District funds and grants.

• Targeted use of councilmanic bonds to complete transportation, shoreline and park projects that have been awarded grants.

• Open space acquisitions and projects funded by voted bonds and revenues from developer incentives.

• Councilmanic bond funding for priority park and road projects, including a restroom in Waterfront Park.

Deferred until later:

• A new police and court facility.

• Winslow Way construction west of Madison.

• Most of the Core 40 and other non-motorized projects.

• Road repairs at Fort Ward Hill, Rockaway Beach and Country Club Road.

• Road-end improvements.

• Affordable housing opportunities other than the Quay.

• Transportation, park and shoreline improvements that aren’t attached to grants.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 24 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates