Friday, May 8, 2009
Mayor's budget funds riverfront park
Dean's plans also include library, bus rapid transit By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • May 8, 2009 Mayor Karl Dean said his $560 million capital budget will include money to replace portable classrooms with traditional ones, develop a bus rapid transit system and build a park on the Cumberland River's east bank. Dean also will recommend $50 million in major storm-water projects, a new public library for Goodlettsville and more than $30 million for public safety. The mayor plans to file the full, multiyear capital budget with the Metro Council today. He released some of his proposals Thursday. "It is important, even during difficult economic times, for a city to invest in its infrastructure and facilities needed for our citizens," Dean said in a news release. "But given the current economic environment, it's more important than ever for our investments to be made wisely and support our priorities and our community's greatest needs." Dean's administration put about 140 capital projects on hold last year because reserve funds set aside to pay off debt had declined dramatically in the previous two years. Dean planned to submit a capital plan last fall, but pulled it back because of turbulence in the United States credit markets. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the new plan would include about $130 million that has been spent on projects in progress and $110 million for completely new plans. With council approval, the city also would eliminate about $170 million approved by previous councils. "There were a lot of unclear priorities," Riebeling said. The announcement that Dean plans to build an "adventure play park" along the river drew praise from East Nashville residents, who were saying much different things about him two months ago. The park was the first priority in a riverfront plan developed by Metro consultants with considerable public input in 2006-07. But Dean's administration said in March that it was reassessing the priorities in light of the recession. In the end, Dean said he would propose $30 million for projects on both sides of the river. "It's an important victory that we kept the plan in place," said Kenny Byrd, president of Historic Edgefield Inc., a neighborhood a few blocks east of the river. "We can continue the process of reinvigorating residential and business life on the east bank." Antioch stands to gain Councilman Mike Jameson, who battled Dean when it appeared the park would be pushed back, said he was "enormously grateful to the mayor." "His decision will benefit Nashvillians on both sides of the river for generations to come." Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite, who represents part of Antioch, said she was pleased to see Dean's recommendations for a new fire station, a new police precinct and new parkland in southeast Davidson County. "It's a great thing," Wilhoite said.
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