The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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November 28, 2012

Department heads frustrated with planning process

CLINTON — Clinton’s financial crunch had Capital Improvements Program Committee members and department heads struggling to see the point of the committee’s existence during their first meeting in nearly a year.   

The Capital Improvement Program provides a framework of longterm projects, primarily consisting of upgrades to existing facilities or new structures, for the city.

A majority of the Capital Improvement Plan consists of street projects for the next fiscal years, leaving department heads and committee members questioning the need for them to ask for funding for major projects.

According to Jason Craft, the Capital Improvements Program Committee was designed to have a plan in place to run the city in a more efficient and streamlined way by having projects mapped out.

“Before, it was a council meeting to council meeting thing. It was a day in, day out where do we stand, what kind of money do we have kind of thing,” Craft said. “We started to get the ball rolling last year and it came to an abrupt stop when it was the sentiment of everyone that we don’t have the business talking about a plan due to the fact that we don’t have any money to pay for the plan,” Craft said.

Last year multiple major projects were dropped from the plan with the intention of being revisited due to cost constraints.

Airport Manager Mike Nass and Police Chief Brian Guy spoke during Monday’s meeting about the projects they would like to see completed for their facilties. For Nass, a new hangar and for Guy a new police station are on the radar after being left on the backburner last year. However, both questioned how the current process the committee uses facilitates the progression of these projects.

“It’s always going to be part of our five-year plan until it’s approved,” Guy said. “In order to develop a cogent five-year plan we have to understand that if it may not be my turn this year, it may be my turn in year three to get what I need to get out of the system so the city can work on other projects. Instead of year one: no money. You all come back. Year two: no money: you all come back.  All we do is take what we’ve submitted and add more money because now it’s going to cost more.”

Committee member and City Councilman John Rowland suggested the city hire someone to create a capital improvement program with a matching financial plan.  

If the plan was matched with financials, it would allow department heads to plan their finances better, Nass said.

The committee also has other items to consider outside of their own process.

Although the CIP is focused on roadwork, including the pavement management program, plans may change if the City Council chooses to seek a $20 million bond off of the half of the 1 cent sales tax that is allocated for streets and sewer. It will then need to ask voters to reallocate the other half of the 1 cent in order to continue the pavement management program. If voters choose not to reallocate, the council will be charged with finding another way to fund the program or discontinue it.  

With all of the uncertainty, the committee agreed to continue planning under the charge of planning for the future, but under altered terms.  

“We may consider this a rebuilding year,” Farwell said. “To reassess, rebuild, repurpose and figure out what we can actually accomplish going forward.  We can have all the ideas we want, but if the money’s not there, the income’s not there, it’s no good.”

The committee will meet at 3 p.m. every Monday until further notice.

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