Carbondale prioritizing capital improvements with little money |

Carbondale prioritizing capital improvements with little money

Ryan Summerlin

With a list of projects and little money to pay for them, the Carbondale Parks and Recreation Commission is prioritizing much-needed park bathroom renovations, though it’s still unclear how most of the town’s five-year capital improvements will be paid for.

The five-year plan lists renovations for the bathrooms at Sopris, Gianinetti and Miner’s parks.

The town’s new parks and recreation director, Eric Brendlinger, said the bathroom renovations were “not sexy but a necessary project” for the near future.

This would be a 2018 priority. It’s unclear how the town will pay for bigger projects in the following year, such as a $3.5 million project to renovate Carbondale’s pool and bath house.

In Carbondale’s five-year capital improvements plan, 2017 shows $45,215 to be spent for parks and open spaces, which Brendlinger said is already funded in the 2017 budget.

But the next few years become increasingly more expensive. 2018 shows capital improvements of about $157,000, followed by about $500,000 in 2019, then $3.6 million in 2020 (mostly for the pool), and back down to about $450,000 in 2021.

And that’s just on the parks and open space side.

Transportation capital improvements are projected to cost the town far more: $482,000 this year, $589,000 in 2018, $1.1 million in 2019, $1.1 million in 2020 and $2.8 million in 2021.

The Board of Trustees pulled nearly $500,000 out of reserves to pay for capital improvements in 2017, but that’s just to cover minimum maintenance.

Town Manager Jay Harrington said there hasn’t been any new discussion about the five-year plan among trustees.

In last year’s April election, Carbondale voters solidly rejected a property tax to pay for capital improvements. And recently trustees have peripherally commented that the town needs to find a new way to package a capital improvements tax. But there hasn’t been any recent discussion on that possibility either.

Brendlinger, who is formerly Carbondale’s recreation center director, called the five-year plan a kind of exit interview for former-Public Works Director Larry Ballenger, more of a capital improvements wish list.

This wasn’t a “here’s how you get the money,” but what needs to get paid for, he said.

Even the bathroom renovation won’t get done in 2018 with Carbondale’s money alone. The town will have to apply this year for a couple of Federal Mineral Lease District $25,000 mini grants, be awarded both of those, then leverage that money to apply for a Department of Local Affairs grant — hopefully all adding up to about $200,000.

There is no guarantee the town would be awarded the DOLA matching grant, which is a competitive process, said Brendlinger.

The parks and recreation commission directed staff to package a grant application for the bathroom renovations.

The commission also wants to prioritize new park equipment that will make all parks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the town won’t be able to go after both projects. The grant application process will force the town to pick one or the other.

The commission and Board of Trustees has also been exploring forming a foundation or a nonprofit as a vehicle to funnel donations toward parks and recreation or other Carbondale capital improvement projects.

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