By Mark Carlisle
Litchfield Park plans to spend nearly $10 million on capital projects in the next five years and will spend $4.1 million in the next year, according to preliminary budget reports.
Twenty-nine tabbed capital projects would cost the city $9.9 million between fiscal years 2020 and 2024. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1.
“Having five years also gives us a longer window of time to get staff direction on what we see coming down the pike, planning and coordinating projects,” said director of finance Lars Johnson. “Just looking at one year, I would say, gets us at a late start every year because once the budgets adopted, then it’s, ‘OK now we get the gears running.’ But if we have a bit longer period of timing, then it helps us stay on track.”
Mr. Johnson said it gets difficult to project revenues beyond five years, but said the city will need to boost its ongoing revenue to continue to pay for capital projects at the rate its currently spending, through either sales tax revenues or one-time revenues through construction sales tax.
“We do still in my opinion need some additional commercial development to help us pay for ongoing capital,” Mr. Johnson said.
A $3.9 million street maintenance program is more than three times as expensive as any other planned project. Just over half of that amount, $2.1 million will be paid for by Highway User Revenue Funds. The only other project costing more than $1 million is a $1.2 million reconstruction program on the perimeter wall on Litchfield Road.
Fiscal Year 2020 will outspend all other fiscal years in the five-year forecast, with $4.1 million in projects slated, more than twice as any other year. Nineteen projects will be undertaken in fiscal year 2020, 13 of which will be completed in that year.
The city plans to spend $2 million on capital expenses in fiscal year 2021, $1.7 million in 2022, $875,000 in 2023 and $1.3 million in 2024.
Most of the planned capital costs, $7.8 million, will be paid out of the general fund, and $2.1 million will be paid with HURF.
Litchfield Park plans to spend $1.5 million over the next five years toward creating its City Center mixed-use downtown area which will include commercial, office, residential and entertainment. The district is planned to be between Litchfield Road and Old Litchfield Road and Fairway Drive and Wigwam Boulevard.
In fiscal year 2020, the city will spend $750,000 to extend Village Parkway through the project site from Litchfield Road to Old Litchfield Road and $500,000 on creating the City Center Park which is planned for the northwest corner of the site. In fiscal year 2021, the city plans to spend $300,000 on roundabouts on the City Center site. City plans show three roundabouts along Village Parkway.
The extension of Village Parkway will include turn lanes off of Litchfield Road and a traffic light.
Mayor Tom Schoaf said the perimeter wall on Litchfield Road is a hindrance to drawing businesses to the planned City Center area.
“The wall is a really big impediment for really selling this area for somebody coming in and saying, ‘Well this would be a great place to have a business.’ When you drive down Litchfield Road, you just see a wall. You don’t see this land at all. But we can’t take the wall down because right now there’s no curb,” Mr. Schoaf said, suggesting the city take down the wall and install a curb and gutter instead.
City Council is leaving an opening for more to be spent on the city’s Center sooner. The city’s tentative budget for next fiscal year, which sets a max spending amount, increased from $16 million to $19 million to allow for a $3 million contingency for the City Center. The tentative budget will be approved during a council meeting Wednesday, June 5, and the official budget, which could be less than the tentative budget, but not more, will be adopted Wednesday, June 19.
Street maintenance tops the Village Parkway extensions as the costliest capital expenditure of fiscal year 2020, $910,000 with $750,000 being spent in each of the four subsequent years. The entire $910,000 cost next year will be covered by HURF revenue. About $300,000 of spending in the four subsequent years will be funded by HURF.
Brian Goodman, director of public works, said the increased funds needed on street maintenance next year is because Litchfield Road must be milled and resurfaced, at a cost of $785,000.
Councilman Peter Mahoney raised a flood control issue on Old Litchfield Road as another roads project he felt should be added to the capital budget.
“It’s a serious issue, especially if we’re going to be building this (City) Center,” Mr. Mahoney said.
Mr. Mahoney owns three restaurants on Old Litchfield Road, Old Pueblo Cafe & Pub, Park Cafe and Papa Paul’s, and said flood water rises onto the sidewalk during storms.
“It’s gotten worse and worse over the years to the point where people couldn’t leave the restaurant to go back to the Wigwam because there was no way to cross the street” without walking down to Wigwam Boulevard to cross, he said. Mr. Mahoney noted the flooding was also causing damage to the street.
Mayor Schoaf said the city needs to go to the county to try to acquire funding for that flood control project.
City council moved up one spending project, moving forward a $22,000 expenditure on pool equipment for the Litchfield Park Recreation Center. Mr. Goodman said the staff currently must manually mix pool cleaning chemicals, which oxidizes and damages the electrical panels.
“All the electrical panels in there are completely rusted and rotted,” Mr. Goodman said. “…If we do have a failure, it’s going to be catastrophic. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Mayor Schoaf said it didn’t make sense to postpone such a small expenditure for something that could be “catastrophic” later.
“That’s almost a rounding error... I think that needs to be moved into next week,” Mayor Schoaf said.