Five-year plan for city buildings and roads approved
BY SUSIE CURRIE — On April 30, the city council passed the five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), for fiscal years 2013 to 2017. It’s the second year that capital improvements have been forecast beyond the current budget.
The vote had been scheduled for the April 25 special budget session – two days after it was discussed at a regular council meeting. But the April 23 meeting was the first most had seen of the 27-page CIP. The budget book distributed a month earlier contained only the operating budget, not the capital one.
“Unlike previous issues before the council, it isn’t a dereliction of duty not to move forward with this,” said Shani Warner (Ward 2). “Given that this was first presented two days ago, it seems reasonable to wait.”
Updated annually as part of the budget process, the CIP gets fine-tuned throughout the year as the council votes on when, how, and how much of the appropriations are spent. Although it includes items like new speed-enforcing radar and LIDAR (laser) for police vehicles, most is allotted to buildings and streets. Here’s a look at the major projects on the horizon.
Last year’s Comprehensive Facility Management Assessment summed up the condition of the five city buildings, two of which are currently vacant. They are listed below in order of projected expenditure. All years are fiscal, not calendar.
Municipal Building: 4310 Gallatin Street
$5.2 million over three years, beginning in 2014
For recommended repairs, such as replacing the roof and HVAC system, $700,000 has been budgeted for 2014 and 2015. Then, in 2016, “construction/maintenance” costs total $4.5 million. Currently, all departments but public works are housed here; if some move to the two now-empty buildings (see below), at least some of the building’s 33,000 square feet would be repurposed. Mayor Marc Tartaro, an architect by day, said he came up with that figure by multiplying the square footage by a per-square-foot cost of $150.
Former BB&T building: 3505 Hamilton Street (vacant)
$4.52 million in the next three years ($420,000 in FY 2013)
To use this building, according to the report, the city would need to upgrade the elevator and HVAC system, remove asbestos and lead, and meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. But getting the lead out, it appears, may have to wait.
“Everything pivots on 3505,” Tartaro told the council during a special budget session on April 25. It certainly seems to be the biggest lightning rod of the CIP.
One indicator of how much a councilmember wants to spend on this building, purchased by the city in 2010, is what he or she calls it. Tartaro, for example, always refers to it by its street number. But to Paula Perry and Ruth Ann Frazier, who represent wards 4 and 5 respectively, it’s the BB&T building. Opposed to its $950,000 purchase from the start, they would rather see the earmarked millions spent on amenities and improvements in West Hyattsville.
But the building’s funding source – speed camera revenue – can only be used for “public safety” programs. So Tartaro’s proposal to make it the new home of the Hyattsville City Police Department would qualify. But questions remain for some of his colleagues.
“To fund it entirely with speed-camera revenue is ambitious,” said Councilmember Timothy Hunt (Ward 3), “and takes it out of the realm of public-safety and more in the realm of being a revenue-driven initiative.”
Arcade building: 4318 Gallatin Street (in construction)
$3 million in FY 2013
The initial phases of the project have been completed, but the rest will have to wait until the council approves a design plan. Members have already had the opportunity to comment on four possible scenarios; at press time, the architect was expected to present other scenarios based on that input.
Magruder Park Recreation Building
$285,000 in FY 2013
Addressing issues revealed in the facilities assessment, the money will, among other things, make the exterior bathrooms ADA compliant and repurpose a storage area as a concession stand. Also planned for the coming fiscal year is $20,000 for resurfacing the park’s tennis courts, and the beginning of a five-year, $1.1 million plan to renovate soccer and football fields.
Department of Public Works Operations Center:
4633 Arundel Place
The assessment of this East Hyattsville building near the Edmonston border found major deficiencies in every area, including materials, structural integrity, and storage. Tartaro has said he wants to wait on making decisions about it until after achieving his long-standing goal of reorganizing the DPW. Before the search to replace erstwhile director Patrick Ryan begins, that job description as well as department functions will almost certainly be rejiggered. The reorganization will also take into account the results of a fleet study – a survey of all city vehicles – that arrived in draft form in early May; a draft copy is under review. In the meantime, DPW is allotted $260,000 in the CIP for two new vehicles.
“When I moved here 30 years ago,” said Tartaro, “the city had neglected the roads for decades, and continued to neglect them until the last decade. I certainly am committed to making sure that we have an infrastructure that everyone can drive on without having to get their car repaired on a regular basis.”
Crittenden Street and 40th Place reconstruction
$1.6 million in 2013
This plan to improve drainage, realign the roadway and add sidewalks, tossed around for years by the council, has only recently moved into the design stage. Extensive new state stormwater management requirements are only the latest obstacle in a path marked by permitting problems, DPW leadership changes, and a faulty seven-month storm drain replacement by Prince George’s County contractors.
Finishing the Five-Year Street Rehabilitation Program
$880,000 in 2013 and 2014
In 2004, the council passed this optimistically-named plan to repair the city’s streets. This budget would allow it to be completed over the next two years, improving road conditions at 42nd Place and Oliver Street (near Hyattsville Middle School) and in the notoriously flood-prone “Soggy Bottom” neighborhood near Magruder Park and the Northwest Branch bike trail. As detailed in the February 2012 HL&T, the city DPW raised sidewalks there to accommodate tree roots. But the new sidewalks were higher than residents’ yards, trapping rainwater that should have flowed onto the street – and trapping some residents who couldn’t open their front gates. That was in 1993.
University Hills road repair
If the BB&T building/3505 Hamilton Street raised eyebrows because of the high cost, this project did the same for the opposite reason. Hunt, who lives in and represents University Hills, was incensed.
“I’d like to see at least a placeholder for University Hills road construction,” he said at the April 23 meeting. “I know any figure would be somewhat unreliable, but right now that number is zero.”
Tartaro said in an interview that’s because the engineers didn’t provide figures in the preliminary drawings they gave him, Hunt and acting DPW director Julia McTague in late March.
“Budgeting should be relatively accurate, and if it isn’t you need to know why you missed the number,” he said at the meeting.
Hunt is concerned that postponing funding decisions will delay a project that, according to staff, is already estimated to take seven years.
“That seems a bit much for a neighborhood of about 350 homes,” he added. “To me, it is not that the city can’t provide estimates, even if they are preliminary at best, it is that they won’t.”
But University Hills Area Civic Association President Ron Pedone, who has lived there for more than 40 years, said the zero “doesn’t bother me.”
“It would be, in some ways, premature or foolhardy to throw out a number and revise it over and over,” he said. “My reading is that [city officials] first want to determine what it is they want to do. Are we going to end up with a Chevrolet or a Rolls Royce? Figure that out first. To work backwards doesn’t make sense.”
Pedone has been coordinating with McTague to schedule a public meeting so the community can see the drawings. The latest University Hills newsletter said that it is expected to be in late May or early June, but no date has been set.