Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nashville council approves funds for ambitious building projects

Parks, schools projects cleared By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • June 10, 2009 Expect to see a lot of dirt being turned and construction starting around Nashville in the next six months. The Metro Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Mayor Karl Dean's $560.8 million capital spending plan, setting in motion dozens of projects ranging from sidewalks and bike lanes to a new branch library and school renovations. "We need to go ahead and do what we need to do with our parks, our schools, our sidewalks," said Councilman Jim Forkum of Madison, chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee. "Certainly there are needs out there. "It's a citywide plan. I think everybody can support it." While some of the projects will draw little public attention even after they're completed, some will have high profiles, including: • $30 million to revitalize both sides of the downtown riverfront, starting with an approximately $12.6 million adventure play park that's expected to attract many families and tourists to the east bank. • A road connecting North Nashville to the West End area by linking 28th and 31st avenues just south of Charlotte Avenue, near Centennial Park. The budget includes $500,000 to plan the road, with construction expected to start in about two years. • More than $13 million for construction of 47 classrooms so Crieve Hall, Glengarry, Glenview and Haywood elementary schools can eliminate trailers. • A nearly $6.5 million police crime lab and a $5.25 million police precinct in West Nashville. City officials still need to choose the location for the new precinct and acquire land for it. • A $5.2 million branch library in Goodlettsville that was in former Mayor Bill Purcell's final capital plan two years ago. • $50 million to fix major storm-water problems around town. Bonds finance projects Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the city will sell municipal bonds to permanently finance the projects by the end of 2010. In the meantime, it will get the work started by drawing on a $300 million line of "commercial paper," a short-term borrowing tool similar to a construction loan in the private sector. The city will use property tax revenues to pay off its debt. Riebeling said Metro will start hiring architects and making other plans immediately, and he expects to see most of the projects under way by the end of the year, creating jobs and spending in a tough economy. "It'll be a little bit of a local stimulus," he said. Metro has already spent about $132.8 million on projects that are in progress. About $178 million would be completely new. Dean's administration put $250 million worth of previously approved projects on hold while assessing the city's ability to borrow money for them more than a year ago. The mayor planned to submit a plan to the council last September but decided to wait until the nation's credit markets improved, ultimately delivering his recommendations in early May.

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