Council views capital plan

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, February 4, 2016

Recreation, transportation, public safety and school projects were the main concerns for City Council members viewing the proposed capital improvements plan on Wednesday.

Questions about the lack of an aquatic center — a recreation priority established by City Council during its retreat last fall — in the plan came from Councilman Roger Fawcett.

“I see nothing in this that addresses an aquatic center in out years,” Fawcett said.

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City Manager Patrick Roberts said the aquatic center and other parks and recreation projects will be addressed during the department’s master plan, a final version of which is due to be released soon. Projects identified as high priorities in that plan could be included in next year’s capital improvements plan.

“We’ll give you a lot of good data in the master plan,” he said.

The capital improvements plan is prepared annually and looks at 10 years of buildings, road improvements, utility projects, recreation facilities, fire engines and other big-ticket items. It also examines how the city plans to pay for them.

After the City Council approves the plan, the first year becomes part of the budget process.

The first year of this plan includes more than $68 million in projects, including utility, refuse and stormwater projects.

Several council members inquired about improvements to the intersection of Wilroy Road and Nansemond Parkway, which it’s hoped will alleviate the congestion that takes place there when a train is crossing the tracks nearby.

The city recently installed signs that command drivers to turn away from the tracks while a train is crossing, thereby freeing up the flow of traffic, but several people have reported drivers are not obeying the signs.

Councilman Roger Fawcett praised the inclusion of four fire engines in the plan and also pushed for a new fire station on College Drive, which is planned to be constructed in fiscal year 2022.

“It’s going to be really needed as we continue to build out Harbour View,” Fawcett said. “It’s going to tax that station on Bridge Road to the max.”

Councilman Mike Duman also inquired about the $5 million increase in the price for a new northern middle school, occasioned by council upping the number of students the school will serve to 800.

“It seems like a lot,” Duman said.

Roberts said it is hoped some savings can be achieved by bidding the new middle and elementary schools as the same project.

Duman also said he was glad the debt proposed to pay for the projects is well below the city’s maximum debt capacity.

The City Council will vote on the plan at a future meeting.