City proposing lean 3-year capital improvements plan

February 19, 2013 9:50:09 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


A three-year capital improvements report prepared by City Engineer Edward Kemp shows small funding gaps exist between projected budgets and estimated costs for various infrastructure projects. 


That plan, Starkville officials say, reflects a more conservative approach to budgeting. 


Capital improvement funding for Fiscal Year 2013 projects will come from two primary sources: the city's capital improvement budget and additional unspent lease payment funds from the municipal building fund. The fiscal year's proposed improvement budget is $705,000, but projected costs amount to $714,000. 


Estimated funding, according to Kemp's report, drops to $500,000 and $550,000 respectively for FY 2014 and 2015, but estimated costs - $514,000 for FY 2014 and $563,000 for FY 2015 - remain higher. 


Kemp will present the report at tonight's 5:30 p.m. Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting at City Hall. 


Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said the city is now budgeting its capital improvement needs in a more conservative fashion. Similarly-sized cities, she says, budget approximately $400,000 to $450,000 toward infrastructure projects. 


"We're going in knowing we have a realistic budget that we can add to as money becomes available," Sistrunk said. "A lot of things can create additional dollars. This year, there was funding from debt service that we won't have until next year. In prior years, funding has been rolled over from vacant positions. 


"In past years, we were spending bond monies to do a lot of capital improvements. We've been conducting an aggressive catch-up campaign in terms of infrastructure," she added. "We hope to get to a point where it's more oriented around maintenance." 


State transportation improvement program (STIP) funding is eliminated from FY 2014 and 2015 budgets, Kemp's report states. Sistrunk says those contributions could have added an additional $50,000 to $100,000 for projects.  


Other factors, including increasing supply costs, could affect short- and long-term infrastructure budgets. In nine years, average asphalt prices have almost doubled, Kemp's report states. To increase funding effectiveness, Kemp's report suggests the city utilize street department crews to complete base repairs and reduce maximum pavement loads associated with future projects. 


Kemp acknowledged the more conservative budget and said the city picks projects that will produce the most impact for its residents and are the closest to being shovel-ready. 


Wiggle room exists with each project's final cost, he said, and the city sets aside contingency funds as needed with these efforts. 


"Usually, there's a little tolerance here and there with some projects running under estimates," he said. "We try to manage our budgets conservatively, but it's hard to hit every exact project number (per year)."  


This year's fiscal projects include 2012 street overlays for Critz Street, Eutaw Street and Sherwood Road ($400,000), Priority 6 roadway projects (nine individual projects totaling a combined $229,000), five drainage improvement projects ($55,000) and two sidewalk projects ($30,000). 


FY 2014's budget addresses Priority 7 roadways - 11 individual projects - which are estimated to cost $364,000; $100,000 worth of drainage projects and an estimated $50,000 worth of sidewalk projects. The following fiscal year will address Priority 8 roadways - 10 individual projects - for an estimated $398,000 and a combined $165,000 worth of to-be-determined drainage and sidewalk projects. Those projects will be based upon funding and easements received by the city. 


Future projections are based upon assumed prices: asphalt surface costs ($105 per ton), asphalt base costs ($110 per ton) and milling costs ($4 per square yard). 


Kemp's report also designates 19 future projects and milling efforts as Priority 9 projects. Those projects also include patching, overlay and striping for city parking lots near Starkville Community Market and Starkville CafĂ©. 


The city's engineer report also identifies 11 prioritized drainage projects which will cost approximately $1 million combined. Three projects - channel restoration work for Carver Drive and two project phases for Maple Street - are ongoing, according to the report, at a combined cost of $745,000. Twenty-five other unauthorized drainage projects are included in the report and cost a combined $1.9 million. The e-packet also identifies 11 completed drainage projects. 


"The projects rated highest are there for two reasons: impact and how shovel-ready the projects are. As non-prioritized projects become shovel-ready and we receive necessary easements, they'll move up on the list," Kemp said. "We're trying to take on the worst projects - the ones we can make the most impact with the smaller dollar figure - and get those shovel-ready quickly." 


Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins will request the board rescind its previous order to channel restore the Carver Drive ditch and replace that project with a concreting plan. If approved, $175,000 associated with the previous project would be used to concrete the sides and bottom of the ditch. 


Kemp did not have an immediate cost or time estimate for the alternate Carver Drive ditch project.  


"The city engineer has done an excellent job in putting together a plan that will use city resources in the most efficient manner possible to do the infrastructure work that needs to be done in the coming years. If you look at the amount of infrastructure improvements we've done for the past three years, there's been a massive number of projects," Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said. "No city can sustain that pace forever, but the good news is we're getting to a point where enough remedial work has been done and we're on a path to keep infrastructure in high-functioning conditions." 


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch