April 9, 2014 10:24:03 AM
Nathan Gregory - email@example.com
While Columbus councilmen have a working idea of the most needed capital improvements in their wards, all said they plan to use Thursday's public hearing to prioritize them if they choose to increase millage to pay for them.
A public hearing on a proposed bond issue to finance infrastructure upgrades including road, sidewalk and drainage improvements will be held 5 p.m. Thursday at the Columbus Municipal Complex.
Councilmen held a special meeting March 31 to discuss raising property taxes to pay for a 20-year, $5 million bond issue that would be used for the upgrades. There they heard financing options from bond counsel. Mayor Robert Smith voiced his support for an increase, saying if he had to break a tie vote on whether to raise the property tax, he would vote in favor of doing so. He also said he would like the project to be financed in such a way that would require no more than a 2-mill increase and less than that if possible. The city's millage rate is currently 40.13 with the value of a mill at $173,000.
Smith also favored splitting most of a loan among the city's six wards, allowing councilmen to prioritize the improvements that are most needed and work with Neel-Schaffer, the city's engineering firm, on how they can do the most work with what they receive.
Councilmen have also been working with the city's project managing firm, J5 Broaddus, in recent months to identify the 20 most critical projects in their wards.
None have settled on a set list of exactly what projects they would tackle if the bond issue is approved, thus the call for public input, but all said they're monitoring their wards to identify deficiencies that need to be addressed now.
"Sidewalks are very much needed because of safety issues," Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor said. "Ditching is a quality of life issue. We have open ditches that are constantly overflowing and flooded. I have at least four streets that I really believe need sidewalks. Taking care of the most needed (improvements) first is what I'm interested in."
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens said he had identified several streets that need paving as well as other infrastructure issues that need addressing.
"We're probably going to need to pave (Highway 1)82 over to Airline Road," he said. "That's one of our biggest projects. Paving another 150 feet so the water should be able to flow even better is something we need to work on."
Paving would be a priority in his ward if the city were to increase taxes to finance capital improvements, Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said.
"I've got some drainage in Masonic Subdivision that needs to be fixed still. We've done a lot of work out there, but there's still some things that need to be done," Box said. "That and paving are what I'm going to focus on."
Marty Turner, Ward 4 Councilman, said paving needs to be done near Columbus High School, particularly on Hemlock Street and Browder Street.
"The people in that area, when they did the development in their housing area, they chose concrete," Turner said. "It's lasted a long time, but it's time for them to get roadways over there. One of my priorities would be to either get it milled and paved or overlaid. That road is heavily traveled because Gateway Shopping Center is in that area and the students and shoppers go around those neighborhoods."
Kabir Karriem said one of the most pressing issues in Ward 5 is the condition of the roads, but sidewalk repairs and new sidewalks are also needed.
"One thing on my list is putting some sidewalks on Railroad Street to better service the folks in that area. Drainage is also an issue," Karriem said. "I'm hoping to put up some protective railing in some of these ditches to stop people from falling over in them. I also hope this time we'll have enough money to pave First Street South.
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin said paving roads in Fox Run and Northaven Woods would be priorities for him.
"I want to also focus on Holly Hills Road. I would like to show Tufline Road some attention," Gavin said. "I still have some drainage issues in Northaven Woods and on Chapman Drive that need to be addressed. If money is available, I would like to look at the possibility of placing some sidewalks along Fifth Street from the apartments to down around where the hospital is."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.