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Proposed capital plan abandons City Hall complex

Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson’s proposed Capital Improvement Program for the upcoming fiscal year no longer includes a massive consolidation of city and schools offices.

Richardson discussed the proposed CIP during a work session with the City Council on Wednesday.

Over the summer, Richardson said he planned to include funding in the CIP to design a 200,000-square-foot complex to consolidate city and school administration, parking, the police department and some city and Albemarle County joint services.

In October, the city issued a request for proposals from firms to design the complex, but pulled it two days later citing a short submission deadline. Officials said the RFP would be reposted, but as of Wednesday it had not been published.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Richardson said the proposal was only actually for a space study, not an actual design. He said it’s been put to the side and there’s no timeframe on when it may be reintroduced.

The city is operating on a $188.8 million budget for fiscal 2020, which started July 1. It included one percentage point increases to the meals and lodging taxes.

The $127.9 million Capital Improvement Program, which covers five years, includes $35.8 million for fiscal 2021, which starts July 1, 2020. The council approves a five-year capital spending plan plan each year, but only dedicates funding for one year at a time. Further years are included as projections.

The document is full of slashes to some planned or routine expenditures and increases to others.

The proposal is a $403,500, or 1%, increase over the adopted CIP for fiscal 2020. From fiscal 2019 to 2020, the CIP rose $12 million, or 51%.

Most of the big-ticket items were projected or previously planned projects.

The plan includes $4.9 million for the first part of the city’s commitment to construct a parking garage under an agreement with Albemarle County to keep county courts downtown.

The garage will be constructed on a lot on Seventh and Market streets at a total cost of $10 million.

Another expenditure is $5 million for a local match to construct a new Belmont Bridge. The city plans to seek construction proposals next fall.

The plan allocates $800,000 to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, avoiding a public outcry that faced officials with the last budget. While crafting that spending plan, city officials proposed eliminating the fund to instead fund specific projects. The council later allocated $800,000 to the fund.

The proposal also calls for $3.2 million toward expanding Charlottesville General District Court.

A new project not in last year’s CIP is $1.5 million to address air quality at the Smith Recreation Center.

The plan includes $125,000 for a Downtown Mall threat and risk assessment study. The recommendations from the study would be implemented in fiscal 2023.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker asked for additional information about the implementation, which could cost more than $2 million. She was wary of expending that amount money on possible threats instead of other measures.

“I think this is when we have to make a decision and we can’t meet everyone’s needs right now,” she said.

Several projected expenses for fiscal 2021 are either eliminated or reduced.

The proposal eliminates $1.25 million planned for street milling and paving; $300,000 for new sidewalks; $325,000 total for Parks and Recreation; $200,000 for bicycle infrastructure and $100,000 to the school division’s small capital improvements program.

The city will contribute $1.5 million to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for its redevelopment of public housing stock in fiscal 2021, rather than the $3 million that was previously projected.

Richardson said that the city earmarked $3 million in bonds for the agency in fiscal 2020, but that money hasn’t been spent.

If it isn’t spent this year, it will be rolled over to fiscal 2021, giving CRHA access to $4.5 million if necessary.

Some smaller increases in expenditures over projections include $392,000 for fire, police and sheriff radio replacements and mobile data terminals; $377,000 for an ambulance; $200,000 for traffic signal replacements; $200,000 to study the city’s fee structures; $150,000 to create an economic development strategic initiatives fund and $50,000 for historic resources studies.

Councilors asked several questions primarily focused on the minutiae of certain expenditures.

Councilor Wes Bellamy was concerned that the CIP included no funding to implement a master plan at Tonsler Park.

Deputy City Manager Letitia Shelton said $4 million was requested for park improvements, but it wasn’t included in the proposal.

“That’s going to be your decision to take out what’s here and add in something new,” she said.

The council asked for more information on departmental budget requests to consider what wasn’t included.

The CIP will be presented to the Planning Commission on Nov. 26. The commission will hold a public hearing on Dec. 10.

On March 2, the city and school division budgets will be presented to City Council.

Final approval is expected by April 14.


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