Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mayor Dean kills $172 million in projects

Scuttled plans affect parks, public works By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • May 9, 2009 Metro would pay for $560 million in building, renovation and equipment projects and pull the plug on nearly $172 million in previously approved plans under the capital budget Mayor Karl Dean proposed Friday. Dean's recommendations include about $54 million to expand and renovate the Fulton government complex on Second Avenue South, $6.1 million for new bikeways and sidewalks, and about $6.5 million for a DNA crime lab. At the same time, Metro would drop about 30 planned projects dating back as far as 1999, including $58 million for various public works and $22 million for parks. But each of those departments would get slightly more money for new projects. "We have curtailed millions of dollars of projects and clearly identified those we believe important for our City at this time, recognizing that our resources are limited now and for the foreseeable future," Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling wrote in a letter to Metro Council members. Councilman Carter Todd of Green Hills said he liked what he saw in the plan, which Riebeling said would take at least three years to complete. "It's easy during tough times to get kind of scared and not make the proper investments," Todd said. "If we stop spending money and hunker down, we'll lose what makes Nashville so special." But Councilman Duane Dominy of Antioch said it might be wise to de-authorize even more projects than Dean recommended. "We need to limit how we're increasing the debt load of the city, especially in these economic times," he said. $178M would be new Metro has already spent about $132.8 million on projects that are in progress. About $178 million would be completely new, including $50 million to control stormwater and $22 million for riverfront development, where an additional$7.95 million was already planned. About $250 million was previously approved but put on hold by Dean after he took office in 2007. Riebeling said the city would start hiring architects and working up designs for many projects soon after winning council approval. A new police precinct in West Nashville, new and renovated fire halls around the city and a new library in Goodlettsville — which former Mayor Bill Purcell proposed two years ago — would be among the first things to get started. Two of the de-authorized projects are actually still planned, but with new arrangements. Instead of renovating the existing Lentz Public Health Center, Metro plans to swap the facility for property owned by HCA Inc., where the city would construct a new building. Also, Foursquare Properties, which plans to redevelop Bellevue Center mall, would build a public library there in exchange for $12 million from the city. Jim Forkum, chairman of the council's budget committee, said the deauthorization plan makes sense. "It's kind of like going through a file cabinet," he said. "You keep what you need to get done."

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