Committee Narrows Field, Puts Cap On Projects

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The deadline is fast approaching for the Capital Improvements Committee to select which high-dollar projects they will recommend to the town council for bond initiatives during the next election.

Chairman Bruce Whiting cautioned committee members that they need to choose a few projects and be unified in their decision and to remain cognizant of future projects.

"There are things that we just can't deal with right now," Whiting said. "There's a lot of future still ahead that we need to think through."

Whiting also referred to the town's ongoing water issue.

"At some point, we are going to have to find water instead of dealing with the supply we have," Whiting said.

Since the formation of the committee, its 15 members have spent time examining past bond initiatives that failed, polling public sentiment about the projects and narrowing the focus of improvements.

Town department heads returned to clarify and answer questions about the projects they proposed for the committee's consideration.

Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett answered questions about some of the 12 streets that make up his department's potential bond project.

Street improvement projects included in the potential bond package are Mud Springs to Frontier to Highway 260, Saint Philip's, Manzanita to Highway 260 and putting a stoplight on the Beeline Highway at Airport Road.

Garrett also discussed drainage projects, which the committee ultimately chose to put on hold until a later date, citing a need for more information and their belief that street improvement was a more immediate need.

Parks and Recreation

After a rough start at the previous meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind returned with a scaled-down version of his original proposal for a bond project.

"Since we met last week," Schwind said, "we realized that it was premature to bring two of our large-ticket items to the committee: the community center and the golf course."

A feasibility study on a community center is not complete and committee members expressed their discomfort in recommending a multi-million dollar project without adequate information.

"Even though we've put the community center on hold for now," Whiting said, "it's good for this committee to keep in mind for how much bonding capability we should save for future projects."

The two remaining projects that Parks and Recreation proposed to the committee were a shade structure on the event center and laying synthetic turf on three ballfields at Rumsey. Schwind provided a computer rendering of the proposed shade structure to be built by Bunger Steel at an estimated cost of $550,000.

Schwind answered the committee's questions on issues of lighting and electrical capacity.

"The plan includes 64 skylights," Schwind said, "and indoor lighting we can do in-house." As far as electrical capacity, Schwind described the event center as "loaded for bear."

Public safety

Fire Chief John Ross, Police Chief Gordon Gartner and Sgt. Rod Mamero answered some last-minute questions about the multi-million dollar overhaul of the current communication system at the departments.

While the committee appeared to see a need to replace the current DOS-based system that one committee described as "one step above two cans and a string," they could not justify some of cutting-edge technologies such as laptops in patrol cars. They felt they did not have adequate information about the technologies to make an informed decision and to sell the idea to the public at election time.

In the end the committee reached a consensus that they would recommend a public safety package to the council totaling about $600,000, that mainly covered replacing the existing computers and software in the two departments.

Still under consideration is the construction of a new fire station in the area of Tyler Parkway and Highway 260 at a cost of $1.5 million. With the impending fire season, the committee discussed concerns about the necessity of the fire station and whether it should be proposed as a separate bond issue rather than be tied into the other public safety project.

The committee, in its selection of capital improvements to recommend to the council for future bond initiatives, have whittled $30 million dollars worth of improvement projects down to $7.5 million.

At the next and final meeting, the committee will finalize their recommendations and discuss financing options and how they intend to package the projects that will come before the voters.

Wednesday's final meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at town hall and is open to the public.

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