Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mayor's Stimulus Package

Today, I want to take a break from the Destination 2040 visioning comments and think about the Mayor’s $556 million stimulus package wish list.

This list contains some interesting and somewhat confusing items, but I think that all of them are needed at some level.

All of the Airport projects are well documented but yet may be less needed if the airline industry declines further or the tourism industry continues to falter.
  • Carrier Ramp Rehabilitation 2,618,000
  • Terminal Drive and Airfield Lighting Electrical Vault 5,930,000
  • TW D Relocation and Corp. Ramp Addition ? Phase II 7,033,000
  • Construct RW 9-27 Phases II and III 18,000,000
There are a number of projects that puzzle me concerning the Government Center Buildings. Primarily the main Government Center, the Switow building , the Phoenix building and the Old Court House(now the History Museum). The Mayor and the Council have made a big deal about the need for a new City Hall Complex and have had a consultant study the same. The recommendation has been given that, yes, we do need a new building but a location has not been identified. The Mayor an Council have proposed replacing the Stewart’s garage and Police headquarters with a new City Hall and removing the Phoenix building and parking garage. With that as background, we find on the wish list these items:
  • Switow Building; Painting/Flooring and HVAC Improvements 170,000
  • Phoenix Building; Windows/Flooring/Painting and HVAC Improvements 2,020,000
  • Government Center; Total Building Renovations 8,000,000
  • Coroner's Office; Total Building Renovations including HVAC 1,500,000
  • Government Center Parking Garage Restoration. Safety, ADA, and structural improvements to important downtown public parking garage. 2,181,000
  • Annex Parking Garage; Concrete Repairs 100,000
  • Courthouse Parking Garage; Upgrade Revenue Producing Equipment 100,000

Each of these would be vacated and/or demolished in the near future if a new city hall is built, so is the administration covering its bases or wasting money?

A great deal of discussion has been held in many forums, about the CentrePointe TIF. Several public projects have been identified for the use of the TIF funds in the area surrounding the new hotel/condo tower, not the least of which is the old Court House renovation. So, where did this come from?
  • Fayette County Courthouse; Major Renovation/HVAC 23,000,000
If the old Court House is done with stimulus money for what do we use the TIF money? Does this put the TIF status in jeopardy? Can we be double dipping?

The Distillery District is also in the pipeline for TIF status and it too has a stimulus entry.
  • Distillery District public improvements to include new sidewalks, Town Branch Trail, placement of utility lines underground, storm drainage improvements, and new sanitary lines 15,000,000
And how about the following, can they not be combined into one project?
  • Upgrade of Roofing (insulation)and HVAC systems of Bell Place 200,000
  • Renovate historic Carriage House Theater at Bell House, a 150 year old historic landmark in Lexington 250,00
  • Bell House replacement windows on signature public space in Lexington. Project will reduce fuel costs, water incursion and deterioration to 150 year old National Historic Register property 150,000
The only skatepark in Lexington is in Woodland Park which is also the site of Realtor’s Plaza. There is also a set of tennis courts sandwiched in between.
  • Renovate outdated shelter/restroom building that houses Therapeutic Recreation and swim camp programs and skateboard/concession functions with energy and security efficient structure 150,000
  • Redevelopment of Realtor's Plaza 130,000
Once again these could be combined in to one project.

There are several signalized intersections listed to be rebuilt.
  • Rebuild Signalized Intersection, Cooper Drive at University Drive 200,000
  • Rebuild Signalized Intersection, Rosemont Garden at Southland Dr 200,000
  • Rebuild Signalized Intersection, Third Street at Race Street 200,000
  • Re-build Traffic signals in downtown 1,600,000
The last entry does not identify which signals or how many, but from the cost given, I would guess the number to be eight. That would not jive with the number of jobs created though. The first three add five jobs each, but the last one adds 15. Go figure.

This next ones really throws me. Somewhere there is a disconnect in these two entries.
  • develop centralized city-wide 4 field Football Complex with artificial turf to avoid 'home-away' conflicts and provide safer surface 3,000,000
  • Lafayette High School Football Stadium 6,500,000
Each of the 4 other public high schools has rebuilt their football stadiums in the past few years and each with artificial turf, I believe. Two of the private high schools have their own sports complexes. So, where can we find a “central location”, presumably, currently owned and construct 4 fields, for half the price of one, at its present location. Does anybody have any idea where this is proposed?

The Board of Education has a few items on the list, and well they should, and only a handful give rise to questioning.
  • Arlington Elementary School 13,206,275
  • Bryan Station Middle School 16,983,245
  • Cassidy Elementary School 13,827,791
  • Leestown Middle School 18,227,636
  • Russell Cave Elementary School 6,905,067
I know that the plans for Cassidy are ready to go and Bryan Station Middle are close, but I thought that Arlington was already underway. The students who attend there are in the old Johnson School site this year so that work could progress. If this item were to be approved, would they just reimburse the Board for some other project? Are a majority of the others currently bonded/ funded?

I know that to some this may sound nit-picky, but if Cheapside as a street, has been closed permanently, then would this item be a streetscape or a part of the old Court House renovation?
  • Streetscape Improvements - Cheapside Park 2,000,000
Transit has been a large part of the Obama campaign during the election, so it has a number of requests. Also, the City has awarded the development rights above the Transit Center to a national design/build firm who, I understand, wishes to acquire the current garage, demo it and build from the bottom up. To that end, how do we explain this:
  • Transit Center Parking Garage Restoration. Safety, ADA, and structural improvements to important downtown public parking garage. 1,026,000
  • Transit Center Parking Garage; Upgrade Revenue Producing Equipment 300,000
  • Transit Center Parking Garage; New Lighting/HVAC Improvements 136,000
  • Construction of new transit center in downtown Lexington. 20,000,000
Once again, I don’t want anyone to think that I am against any of these projects. I want to see a stimulus to the local economy, but not in the worst way. I am sure that these projects were listed so as to be able to be done on a “stand alone” basis , if necessary and they were pulled together in a short time span. I just think that we can do better if we give the public some wiser planning.

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