City finds $1.9M for capital projects

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, August 18, 2011

After finding about $1.9 million left over from various capital projects, city officials are making plans to spend the windfall on more capital projects.

City Council members heard a report on the extra money during a Wednesday work session. Also, staff recommended putting the brakes on two other projects that are becoming more expensive than expected and directing the money to separate needs within the same communities.

Budget Director Anne Seward said the money was found during a clean-up of several completed capital project funds. Staff recommended using it for a variety of projects, including roadway and drainage improvements in several communities and an updated cost estimate for railway quiet zones.

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Some of the bigger projects the money would be used for include additions to the fire and police facility on Bridge Road and a special events site in downtown.

Police Chief Thomas Bennett said the police and fire departments have several specialized pieces of equipment, including a mobile command bus, boats and trailers, a SWAT truck and a fire rehab vehicle, that currently are stored in outdoor parking lots and exposed to the elements.

He proposed a four-bay storage building that would protect the vehicles and other pieces of equipment. A current storage building on Sleepy Hole Road is “pretty much deplorable and non-repairable,” he said.

Bennett also asked for an impound lot to store vehicles seized for evidence and under asset forfeiture. Currently, such vehicles are stored at the minimum-security fleet management facility.

“We need to do better,” he said.

He also suggested 25 additional parking spaces behind the building. Currently, there is not enough parking for the current staff of the police and fire stations.

The total for all three improvements would be about $890,000, he said.

Further, economic development director Kevin Hughes suggested spending $200,000 for a special events shelter and stage behind the Suffolk Visitor Center. Currently, the city uses Market Park on North Main Street for events like the farmers’ market and the Grand Illumination that kicks off the Christmas season.

However, it has few parking spaces and no public restrooms. Plus, the tents used for the farmers’ market blew over during a windstorm in May, causing thousands of dollars worth of damages.

A space behind the Visitor Center at the city’s busiest intersection would be more visible and complement the center, Hughes said.

In addition, the staff recommended ending efforts to create an emergency access road to the Hollywood neighborhood, because wetlands discovered in the path of the road would increase costs significantly. Instead, the money could be used for improvements to the neighborhood’s Cypress Park, including upgrades to the basketball courts and the pool and addition of more playground equipment and shelters.

City Councilman Leroy Bennett said he would oppose the move unless the community was in agreement with the recommendations.

“I’m hoping this council will go back to the community,” he said. “Do they agree that’s the direction they want to go?”

In addition, staff recommended nixing a multi-use trail in the Eclipse community, saying that acquiring the right-of-way for the trail would likely result in costly condemnation proceedings.

Instead, they recommended using the money to dredge nearby Bennett’s Creek.