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040519-adh-nws-City Budget Woes-my

Henderson Park is one of several Albany Parks inch which plans for play structure improvements have been suspended indefinitely.

The city of Albany is considering deep cuts to its budget over the next two years, but it's still keeping an eye on projects it hopes to complete and deciding which will have to wait.

During a Budget Commission meeting held Tuesday, City Manager Peter Troedsson outlined cutbacks in the Fire Department, the Police Department and other city departments, including planning and the library.

But Tuesday’s meeting also outlined the feasibility of short-term progress for the city’s 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Program, which outlines capital projects — and their costs.

The plan is divided into eight categories: accessibility, parks, public facilities, revitalization, stormwater, transportation, wastewater and water.

Several department heads attended Tuesday’s meeting to share the same message: The city doesn't have enough funds to complete most of the projects in the plan, and some will have to sit on the shelf indefinitely.

Here's a category-by-category rundown:

Accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in areas including employment and transportation. Cities must comply with the law by creating accessible public spaces. According to the Capital Improvement Program, fixing accessibility deficiencies is incorporated into the plan.

The primary construction project in the plan to be completed for 2019-2023 involves improvements in  Washington Street, planned for 2022, at a cost of $199,000. It's the only accessibility project scheduled in the plan through 2023. “The city considers accessibility and evaluates ADA compliance as part of many other activities,” the plan reads. “For example, the Parks Department plans to include an ADA component in their upcoming master plan, ADA improvements have been incorporated into annual action plans for Community Development Block Grants and accessibility has been considered in the city’s Emergency Management Plan.”

Parks

According to the plan, Albany's parks face a significant backlog of repair and replacement projects: “Examples of these projects include the replacement of unsafe, 35-year-old playgrounds, ball field lighting systems, irrigation systems, walks and parking lots and park buildings and structure."

Unfunded projects through 2023 in the plan total $5.87 million and include playground replacements for Grand Prairie, Draper, Pineway, Henderson and Lehigh parks. A $400,000 Deerfield Park renovation is also unfunded.

Two new parks projects were funded. A new neighborhood park next to the new Timber Ridge Elementary School will be paid for entirely with system development charge fees. Eight new pickleball courts, at a yet-to-be-determined location, will be funded through system development charges, possible grants and private contributions.

“All other previously scheduled parks projects have been either delayed or suspended indefinitely due to a lack of predictable funding over the next few years,” the plan read.

Public facilities

Police and fire personnel are in need of training facilities and several city buildings require maintenance, roof repair, carpet, paint, parking lot replacement and heating and cooling systems, according to the plan. No funded projects for facilities are included in the plan, which notes that it's not possible to fund the projects out of the city’s general fund and that the staff will continue to look for additional funding sources. Unfunded projects include $2.5 million to develop emergency services training spaces, $2 million to update the current law enforcement radio system and $200,000 to replace the parking lot for Fire Station 12.

Revitalization

The city will have $25.8 million in unfunded revitalization projects through 2023 in categories such as watershed health and education, general facilities, infrastructure and pedestrian/bicycle connectivity. According to the plan, revitalization falls under the jurisdiction of the Central Albany Revitalization Area (CARA), which receives its funding from property taxes collected from increases in property values. The district is then able to fund projects within its 919 acres. To date, according to the city, CARA has spent $31 million on revitalization.

Stormwater

The stormwater master plan is scheduled to be completed this summer. The city will also have to contend with new regulatory requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Quality after surpassing the 50,000 population mark. The city has joined several other municipalities to challenge regulatory mandates that it says will cost between $300,000 and $1 million annually.

The plan says that only half of the city’s stormwater system has been evaluated, resulting in estimates of $20 million in capital projects for pipes that are anticipated to fail within the next 10 years. That cost could climb as further evaluations of the system are completed.

Transportation

The city’s largest capital asset is the 403 lane miles, 20 traffic signals, 7,290 signs and 61 miles of painted pavement striping it maintains. The plan lays out $18.3 million in funded projects that range from rehabilitation of 24th Avenue to Jackson Street to the traffic signal for Crocker and Gibson Hill. The funded projects are expected to be completed in waves starting this year and ending in 2023.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the city will also have $248.7 million in unfunded projects. “Due to lack of financial resources, Albany’s streets are not being maintained at a level that will allow all streets to remain in ‘fair’ condition,” the plan states.

Wastewater

The Cox Creek Interceptor project is already underway with a price tag of $2.294 million. The plan's list of funded wastewater projects shows that at least one other interceptor, the Ferry Street project, is planned for 2021-2022.

The total for funded wastewater projects through 2023 was listed at $31.1 million. Unfunded projects, including the completion of the entrance and parking lot at the Talking Gardens, totaled $64.8 million.

Water

This year, the city will complete water line replacements at Belmont Avenue and three other projects for just over $3 million. In total, projects that include water line improvements, replacements and work on the Albany-Millersburg water treatment plant intake generator will amount to $11.7 million through 2023.

The canal dredging from Vine Street to 22nd Avenue and other project totaling $55.9 million will not be funded in this five-year cycle.

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