City’s 2016 budget linked to bridge project
The impending Grand Avenue Bridge construction project will drive a lot of spending decisions for the city of Glenwood Springs next year, as City Council continues to review a proposed $72.1 million city budget for 2016.
Included in the proposal put forth by City Manager Jeff Hecksel in late September is a nearly $15 million general fund budget, representing a $1.4 million increase over spending this year for such things as police, streets maintenance, parks and recreation, and general city government functions.
A significant portion of the proposed budget is also set aside for a variety of transportation-related capital projects associated with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s scheduled Highway 82/Grand Avenue bridge replacement that is expected to commence early next year.
The 2016 budget “is not a status quo budget,” Hecksel points out in his supporting message that is to be presented to City Council tonight for the first formal public hearing.
“The budget reflects an expenditure of reserves that will allow the city to take advantage of opportunities associated with construction of the new Grand Avenue Bridge,” Hecksel wrote. “In addition, the proposed budget seeks to address some of the issues facing the city.”
Council delves into the budget tonight during its third work session to go over the revenue and spending plan for next year. Tonight’s regular Council meeting beginning at 6 p.m. also provides an initial chance for the public to comment on the city’s 2016 budget plans.
Included in the budget is the city’s second of three $1 million installments to CDOT to help with some of the aesthetic design features requested as part of the Grand Avenue bridge and related pedestrian bridge replacement.
“A lot of the bigger-ticket items are associated with the bridge, and those are the projects that are likely to go to the top of the priority list,” Hecksel told the Post Independent.
In addition to the direct bridge project contribution, the city also proposes to spend $700,000 for a new bike and pedestrian trail link in West Glenwood, $550,000 for relocation of the existing Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge to a new location across the Roaring Fork River near 14th Street, $100,000 for various other transportation mitigation and $75,000 for designing public areas around the new north bridge landing at Sixth and Laurel.
Several million dollars in proposed 2016 spending relates to some of the projects included in the city’s Long Range Transportation Plan.
Among them would be continued planning for the eventual Eighth Street connection, at $3 million, and beginning work on the planned South Midland Avenue improvements, at $1.75 million.
“There is a large volume of construction and planning work built into this budget, and we only have so much staff time,” Hecksel pointed out. “So, it will be a question of priorities. Some projects will go to the bottom of the list.”
Also contained in the budget is the addition of four new staff positions, including two in the police department, one in the fire department and a proposed new assistant city manager’s position.
“The two positions in the Police Department help get the staffing back to pre-recession levels, and will help with the vagrancy issues facing the community,” Hecksel wrote in his budget message.
City Council has authorized overtime this year for increased foot patrols to deal with some of the incidents related to panhandling and a general increase in the transient homeless population in Glenwood Springs during the warmer months.
“If Council wants to increase the probability the department will be able to field regular foot patrols, an additional three police officers would be needed beyond the two positions proposed in 2016,” Hecksel suggested.
That would cost an additional $255,000, he said.
The extra Fire Department position is intended to beef up staffing due to an increased call volume in recent years, especially when multiple calls come in at the same time, Hecksel explained.
The new assistant city manager’s position is related to the many “high-profile” projects that are slated to commence in the next few years.
“This position has been discussed in the past … but has not been added due to lack of funding,” said Hecksel, who is in the last year of his contract and whom City Council decided 4-3 earlier this summer to replace by next August.
Going forward, “it is necessary to add assistance to allow the new city manager to better address the needs of the council and community,” Hecksel said, adding that the assistant manager’s position would not be filled until a new city manager is on board.
Wage and benefit increases for city workers are also included in the budget, but would not be finalized until December. The public will have additional chances to weigh in on the 2016 budget throughout November and early December before it is officially adopted.
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