The Ottumwa Courier

October 30, 2012

City continues trimming Capital Improvements Program

Departments need to further develop long-range plans, councilman says

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The city’s Capital Improvements Program is on the chopping block.

At the City Council’s Oct. 22 work session, city staff presented their recommendations for projects to be included in the 2013-14 CIP.

“Honestly, I thought it looked pretty good,” said Councilman Jeremy Weller.

City staff requested 60 projects totaling more than $26.6 million over the next five years, though $15.5 million of that would be funded through “other financing,” such as grants and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.

“We’re close to finalizing it but we haven’t yet,” said City Administrator Joe Helfenberger.

Public works and engineering have the “lion’s share” of the projects, Helfenberger said. Street projects total $3.7 million in this round of CIP projects, nearly doubling the 2011-12 CIP, which totaled $2 million.

The only problem Weller saw was in the long-range, five-year plan, rather than any trouble with the two-year plan.

“On some of the departments — because we have a two-year plan and a five-year plan in front of us — they talked more about the two-year plan because that’s the one we’re getting ready to bond for,” Weller said. “But some departments didn’t have much in their five-year plan beyond the first two years.”

He said that’s something that the parks department, for example, should consider, since they only requested funding for three smaller projects in the 2013-14 plan and nothing beyond that. At the work session, Parks Director Gene Rathje mentioned the Jimmy Jones Shelter will also need to be resurfaced within four to five years.

“It wasn’t in the five-year plan ... why isn’t it?” Weller said. “In the longer-range plan, I’d like to see some improvement from some of the departments.”

If smaller projects happen to be cut from the plan, Weller said either nothing will happen with them until the next CIP comes around, or the city will have to find a way to work them back into the regular operating budget, “which is what we did last time with a couple of small City Hall projects.”

Councilman J.R. Richards said while he and the other councilmen have not met to discuss the plan further, more needs to be done to pare down the multi-million dollar plan.

“I think that more than one of us, several of us as a matter of fact, feel that things have crept into it as a wish list,” Richards said. “We don’t have the budgetary freedom anymore to fund things that are not very, very, very important. That’s not to say that everything isn’t important, but there was a basis set up for that fund and I think we’ll go back to following that formula.

“There are things in there I just can’t see paying for at all that need to be included in the regular budget.”

All in all, though, Weller said the CIP for 2013-14 has a lot of good projects, including a few he’s glad to see in the works, including the Market Street Bridge, Quincy Avenue and finishing Marilyn Road.

The total CIP request for 2013-14 totaled $5.4 million, higher than the request for CIP 2011-12 of $3.6 million.

The plan will be brought back to the council for approval at either the Nov. 6 or Nov. 12 meeting.

“We need to make sure it’s near final before we do that,” Helfenberger said.