Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Capital spending curbed in draft Gaithersburg budget

Street reconstruction projects and stream restoration are funded

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Gaithersburg city officials have shaved more than $2.1 million from last year’s capital spending to meet increased operating expenses in the fiscal 2009 city budget.

The proposed budget cuts Gaithersburg’s capital improvements plan about 19 percent, Acting City Manager Jim Arnoult said during a budget presentation to the mayor and council last week. The city’s annual operating budget grew 8.8 percent — or more than $3.4 million — and Gaithersburg is maintaining its ‘‘pay-as-you-go” philosophy, while choosing not to increase the city’s tax rate for the 45th consecutive year.

The city is funding construction of the Upcounty Senior Center and Youth Center in Olde Towne, Arnoult said. The proposed $14 million senior center is planned to start construction in fiscal 2011 and operations in fiscal 2012. The fiscal 2009 budget allows nearly $1 million for research and design.

Construction contracts have been signed for a $3.7 million Youth Center at Olde Towne, said Pete Geiling, facilities and capital projects director. About $1.66 million will be used for its construction near Gaithersburg Middle and Elementary schools and $100,000 will help build 67 parking spaces near the middle school.

About $817,000, including $117,000 in federal money, will support new and large technology projects, including new content management, timekeeping, inventory and fleet management software packages for the city and an enhanced backup network system.

City leaders agreed to hold a work session to determine the future of the Kentlands firehouse, a historic building in need of repairs. An allotted $15,000 for a feasibility study will likely not be enough and officials will reach out to preservation programs and colleges with architectural programs in hopes of creating a competition.

New additions to the capital plan include $250,000 in police station improvements, $225,000 in improvements to City Hall and $250,000 in Historic District improvements, Geiling said. About $70,000 will help study preservation of historic Crown Farm buildings, Tomasello said.

Wells Robertson House, which houses the city’s Community Services division and transitional housing for homeless men and women undergoing alcohol and drug treatment, will get $60,000 in upgrades to meet city code. The city will also see an $865,000 major street reconstruction on Girard Street from East Diamond Avenue to Victory Farm Drive while the Bridalwood subdivision will receive $400,000 in street resurfacing and City Hall’s upper parking lot will be re-paved for $65,000, Arnoult said.

A $1.2 million construction and dam rehabilitation project at the Lake Placid Dam, as well as a new storm drain installation in Olde Towne and stream restoration projects near Asbury Village and on Longdraft Branch are funded. All city parks will get more security lighting in the proposed budget, said Wally DeBord, its operations director.

An $800,000 artificial turf installation for a field in Lakelands Park has been postponed.