Some projects could be postponed in county CIP

The School Board got a first look at the county’s draft capital improvement program last week during a joint meeting of the School Board Liaison Committee and the Budget and Audit Committee.

Last week’s session began with a discussion of the roles of the Liaison and Budget and Audit committees, and moved on to the capital improvement programs for the school system and county.

Matoaca District School Board Member Omarh Rajah asked what the “county side” was going to do about its projects, as the “school side” limited new construction and pushed a new high school out of the five-year plan.

“We need people in buildings, we don’t need more buildings,” he said, and the “school system has taken a huge, huge step in that approach.”

Later in the session, Matoaca District Supervisor Marlene Durfee questioned how the School Board determined what projects should be included in its CIP. The Board of Supervisors needs to have a “comfort level” with the plan, she said.

Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker said the panel still had about three months to vet the school system’s CIP.

Allan Carmody, the county’s budget and management director, said he wanted to begin the discussion of the county’s CIP with projects that were funded in previous CIP years, such as the Harrowgate fire station, a $7.4-million project, and a $13.6-million library project. The design of the fire station is nearing completion, and the library’s design is about 75 percent complete, he said.

The fire station will cost about $1.7 million to operate each year, and the library’s annual operations will cost about $1 million, he said.

“You’ve got to be prepared to fund that operation cost before you start construction,” he said.

Officials also have to weigh the operating costs against the favorable current construction costs, he said. But, that being said, “you can’t just say, ‘It’s a great deal,’ knowing that you can’t operate it,” Carmody said.

The Board of Supervisors could postpone construction of the projects, do some advanced site work for them or proceed with the full projects, he said. There are pros and cons to each option, he said.

“Today, we just wanted to raise this issue,” he said. “These two projects in particular will be very difficult to bring online” because of their operating budgets.

County Administrator Jay Stegmaier said what officials were seeing at Tuesday’s meeting was a draft of the plan, since he hadn’t submitted a CIP to the Board of Supervisors yet.

On the county side, excluding schools and utilities, Carmody said, in excess of $50 million in revenues were lost, including $49.9 million in debt capacity.

The draft CIP for fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2015 includes roughly $502 million in projects, including about $16.6 million for roads, roughly $182 million for schools, about $147 million for utilities and $157 million for general projects, according to information presented by Carmody.

For fiscal 2011, the county-only categories include $4.8 million for roads, $4.7 million for technology and equipment, $8.4 million for major maintenance and $3.1 million for new construction. Over the life of the plan, Carmody said, about 41 percent of funding in the county-only categories will be spent on new construction.

In approving the five-year CIP, officials are only appropriating funds to pay for projects planned for fiscal 2011, he said.

Next year’s CIP funding includes: $900,000 for designing the Courthouse/Rt. 288 fire station; $700,000 for replacing computers in police vehicles; $500,000 for mandated renovations at the animal control shelter; $8.7 million for a Rt. 10 widening project; $2 million for improvements to Robius Road; $2 million for sidewalks; $4.7 million for technology and equipment; $1.9 million for work at Falling Creek Park north; $1.3 million for other park improvements; and funding for maintenance.

Several projects, including the Chester arts center, various parks and recreation projects, a police station and a fire station, have been delayed one year in the plan, Carmody said. A public safety training center and the Rt. 360 West library have been put off two years.

“In order to make these decisions, we’ve evaluated service area demands and coverage levels,” he said. The projects are staged so the earlier ones would meet “larger levels of service area requirements,” he said.

The CIP will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at its Jan. 27 meeting.

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