The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 23, 2012

Ottumwa City Council debates CIP funds

City staff requests $5.3 million in capital projects

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa’s city councilmen have some homework to do before the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) is finalized.

All in all, 10 city departments requested more than $5.3 million in projects for CIP 2013-14.

The total amount is higher this time around, said City Administrator Joe Helfenberger, since interest rates are low — less than 1 percent now compared to 4 to 5 percent in the past — which he largely attributes to the economy. Last fiscal year’s CIP program totaled $3.6 million.

But even though interest rates are low, said Councilman J.R. Richards, the city is still borrowing that money. He said smaller projects (projects under $50,000) should not be included in CIP.

“We have strayed so far from the original intent,” said Councilman Brian Morgan.

CIP are projects that have so great a cost they are usually more than what a department can figure into its one-year operating budget, Helfenberger said.

“CIP items are usually like bricks and mortar, solid items where the benefit is there way beyond one year,” he said.

Morgan said the council needs to make sure each item is a project that’s going to have an impact on the community.

“We need to try to stick with some things that aren’t items that we can work into the budget,” he said.

The original intent of CIP was for streets and dilapidated housing, Helfenberger said. In this CIP, street projects constitute $3.7 million of the entire package.

He said that he and Finance Director Bob Jay had already cut $500,000 lower-priority projects from the program before bringing it to the council’s work session Monday night.

There are five projects in the CIP that the council is obligated to fund since they were already approved: $60,000 for the police department’s radio equipment upgrade, $45,000 for the airport’s deer fence, $220,000 for Eisenhower Pedestrian Bridge repairs, $700,000 for Market Street Bridge repairs and $150,000 for the Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk drop program.

The $3.7 million in engineering and public works projects makes up 69 percent of the entire proposed CIP.

“That’s what we try to do, is what affects people every day,” Jay said.

They include the Eisenhower Pedestrian Bridge, Market Street Bridge, Quincy Avenue from Albia Road to U.S. Highway 34, Quincy Avenue from U.S. Highway 34 to city limits, Milner Street from Mary Street to Jefferson Street drainage ditch, Church Street reconstruction, ADA sidewalk drop program, Jefferson Street viaduct, Marilyn Road and levees.

Some projects, such as the Union Park floor and walkway and two Wildwood Park shelter floors, totaling $26,000, need to be reconsidered, some councilmen said.

“This is where I’ve had issue is with these small items,” Morgan said. “I understand there’s only so much to go around, but when we’re looking at $5,000 ... I wouldn’t have a problem so much if we went into this and said, here’s a plan from the park department, we’re going to go through all these shelters.”

Councilman Mitch Niner suggested lumping a few shelter projects into one large project for CIP.

“If we group them all in together, say here’s $50,000 and we get all the floors done at all the parks, then for the next 20 years we don’t have to worry,” Morgan said.

Councilman Bob Meyers worried that when smaller items such as the parks projects are dismissed from CIP and worked into the regular budget, “for whatever reason, sometimes they end up getting cut.”

Other proposed CIP projects included:

• Planning and Zoning: $608,581 for a comprehensive plan update, downtown facade grant program, CDBG downtown revitalization match and local housing rehabilitation program.

• Airport: $530,000 for First Avenue from Truman Street to Al-jon Drive, HMA overlay of Terminal Avenue, land purchase and exterior design of a runway and an environmental study.

• The Beach Ottumwa: $223,000 to replace the concrete, half-circle drive, install a handicapped lift at the pool and install a new HVAC system.

• Fire department: $97,400 for the outdoor warning system, north side station air conditioning unit, back drive and kitchen remodeling and exhaust system at both stations.

Smaller projects included $50,000 for the health department, $22,000 for the cemetery and $20,000 for City Hall.

Helfenberger said the council will reconvene at a later meeting with their recommendations and set a public hearing for approval of the program.

“Formulate in your head what you think needs to be cut and what needs to be funded so we have a sense of direction,” Jay told the councilmen. “We’ll have another work session to get this finalized.”

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