Davidson’s Town Board on Tuesday began work on a new Capital Improvement Plan – a wish list of proposed town projects, ranging from a badly needed $3 million fire station in east Davidson to street and sidewalk improvements. At their monthly work session, commissioners also approved refinancing $1.6 million in debt, and they looked askance at their counterparts in Cornelius, who rejected joining a regional planning initiative called CONNECT earlier this month.
BIG PROJECT WISH LIST
With annual subsidies to the money-losing MI-Connection Communications System a big drain in recent years, the town of Davidson hasn’t had much money for big-ticket projects such as sidewalks, new facilities or equipment such as vehicles and computers.
But Davidson and its partner in MI-Connection, the town of Mooresville, revised the agreement governing MI-Connection in May, in a deal that halves Davidson’s $2.1 million share of the subsidy this year. (Davidson has agreed to pay Mooresville back in the future in exchange for a fixed $1 million annual payment.)
That eased pressure on Davidson’s budget, and could mean there’s money this year to begin tackling long-range projects. So the Town Board on Tuesday began looking at requests from department heads that might be included in a new 5-year Capital Improvement Plan, for 2012 to 2017.
The discussions are only preliminary, and it’s not yet clear how commissioners will decide to rank any new big projects. Commissioner Laurie Venzon said the agreement with Mooresville means the town has about $700,000 more this year. Some of that could go into a fund to help pay back Mooresville. Some could go to increasing the budgets of some town departments that have suffered in recent years. And some could go toward big projects, she said.
“Every year we used to do a Capital Improvement Plan, and it used to be a running 5-year plan. But we stopped doing that 3 years ago,” Ms. Venzon said. This year, the town isn’t cutting expenses and dipping into its reserves, so it makes sense to begin looking again at a capital plan, she said.
On Tuesday, Fire Chief Josh Peklo presented proposals for a new east Davidson fire station, which would cost an estimated $2.96 million, and for renovating the current downtown station, at a cost of $561,750. The latter project would firefighters to sleep near their trucks, improving response times and allowing the town to stop renting apartments downtown for overnight fire staff.
The proposed Fire Station No. 2 would be built as early as 2015 under the plan Mr. Peklo presented. He said the town wants to build the station near the intersection of N.C. 73 and Davidson-Concord Road. Town officials previously have identified a site on Davidson-Concord Road near June Washam Road as their preferred location.
Mr. Peklo also said he thinks the town will have to move toward a paid fire staff, instead of the current mix of paid firefighters and volunteers. That could start in the next few years by hiring a full-time fire chief, he said.
Public Works chief Doug Wright gave the board a summary of his department’s needs through 2017 and beyond, to 2030. Big-ticket items on his list include new public works offices and storage and maintenance facilities, possibly at the public works yard off West Walnut Street near Ada Jenkins Center. He also listed five road-related improvements: adding a roundabout at Beaty and Griffith streets; paving a dirt section of Goodrum Street in the Walnut Grove area; installing flashing crossing beacons on Griffith Street; completing a connection between Potts and Sloan streets on the West Side; and erecting a new town entry sign at the west roundabout on Jetton Street, off I-77 Exit 30.
Commissioner Rodney Graham said he thinks more sidewalks should be added to the project list, since that has been a priority among citizens. Commissioners Brian Jenest and Ms. Venzon agreed, and said they’d like to see more money in the town’s annual budget for those projects.
Other town departments also will present their wish lists in the coming months at Town Board meetings. The board could approve a list of priorities later this year.
“This is the initial discussion of this matter,” Mayor John Woods said. “It’s going to be a subject for the coming months.”
Ms. Venzon said Wednesday she likely will be reluctant to have the town do big projects that require debt. “Until I know that each of the departments is funded appropriately, and have the personnel they need to do the job our citizens expect, I’m going to have a hard time adding projects on top of that,” she said.
And there are plenty of other ways to spend the money “unfunded needs” list for this fiscal year, 2012-13, totals more than $600,000. And that doesn’t include money to begin work on longer-range projects such as a new fire station.
REFINANCING, REGIONALISM AND A NATIONAL NO. 1 RANKING
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
- The board approved refinancing two loans totaling about $1.6 million: a $1.28 million loan for the town’s 2002 purchase of Fisher Farm, off Shearer Road, and $298,465 for streets and sidewalks. Finance Director Cindy Jones told commissioners the refinancing and several others approved Aug. 14 would save $233,578 over the life of the loans. Both new loans are with BB&T Bank. The Fisher Farm loan, formerly with the Fisher family that sold the property, drops from a 4.69 percent interest rate to 2.49 percent. The street work loan shifts from Fifth Third Bank, where the town paid 4.45 percent annual interest, to BB&T, at 1.39 percent. (See a more detailed analysis on the town website.)
- Consultants Lucy Gallo and Kathleen Rose presented the results of a “fiscal impact study” on two potential development sites in town – one including the car wash and Alexander Trucking site along South Main Street and the other on Jetton Street behind the Exxon station. The study was part of the town’s Economic Development Strategic plan, and showed how much additional tax revenue the sites might generate if developed, as well as potential town costs for infrastructure. Ms. Rose said the analyses are a tool town officials can use when reviewing development projects and will help better gauge effects on the town budget. (See the study on the town website.)
- For a second time, Town Manager Leamon Brice presented commissioners with results of the 2012 Citizen Survey. The manager, who previously reviewed the results in May, said the town has improved in many areas since a similar 2007 survey, and remains above the national average in many measures of citizen satisfaction. “People have told us we are headed in the right direction … we just need to maintain,” Mr. Brice said. On one question, Davidson ranked No. 1 among all communities that took the survey: 93 percent of residents here think the sense of community in town is “excellent” or “good.” A total of 412 people returned the surveys in March. (See the full survey results on the town website. See also Mr. Brice’s presentation from Tuesday (PDF).
- Commissioners also discussed their recent unanimous decision to join the CONNECT Consortium, a federally-backed regional planning partnership. Although nobody mentioned Cornelius, the commissioners clearly were trying to understand the Aug. 20 decision by commissioners there to reject the partnership. Before that vote, Cornelius Commissioner Lynette Rinker linked the consortium to a United Nations initiative called Agenda 21, and called it a “creeping socialist agenda.” But Davidson Commissioner Connie Wessner said Tuesday it makes sense for diverse communities in a region to collaborate on long-range planning. “If we’re not talking as a region, we’re crippling ourselves, because other places around the country have gotten onto this much faster and have found a way to talk to one another – not necessarily so that everybody walks in lockstep, but when you do need to sit down at the table together, there’s some kind of predictability” and understanding. She said not cooperating could cost the region a chance to win federal grants. The United States was among 178 signatories on the U.N. plan in 1992. But in recent years it has become a target of conservatives, including the Republican National Committee, which has called it “destructive and insidious” and a threat to the American way of life.
AGENDA AND DOCUMENTS
Read the full agenda and download related presentations and documents on the town website.