Capital improvements could depend on direction to address space needs
The window of time for Portage County departments to submit capital improvements requests closes April 1, and the county may look again at millions of dollars in projects already put on hold pending a decision on a long-term solution to space needs.
Portage County Space and Properties Committee members last week gave the green light to facilities director Todd Neuenfeldt to submit Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) requests for building repairs including caulking at the County Annex, tuck pointing at the County-City Building and carpet replacement for the Ruth Gilfry Building and the Lincoln Center building, the total for which would be over $100,000.
Those are just three CIP requests that will go in a cue for Portage County Executive Patty Dreier to review with the Finance Department to determine which projects might be planned for inclusion in the 2017 budget and/or planned out over the next five years.
Any county department staff member can submit a CIP request or more than one request for recommendation. The County Board approved more than $4 million in CIP for the 2016 budget.
When the submission window closes in April, Dreier will spend weeks reviewing and ranking them. In June, she develops a recommended five-year plan for CIP, then organizes them and their accompanying timeline in a spreadsheet. Special attention is paid to how and if the projects interact or affect other functions in the county, Dreier said.
“They’re all tied together,” she said. “It’s about balancing capital needs across all areas.”
Dreier will present her recommendations to the CIP Committee in June, then the committee forwards the recommendations to the County Board for a vote.
Last year, $17.5 million worth of requests (16 total projects) were placed on hold, and delays could come again this year if a decision is not made soon on the future of the County-City Building, Dreier said.
The county executive made statements to committees and County Board members during the process last year that the majority of those 16 projects were put on hold until the county determined long-range plans to address space needs.
Of the 16 delayed projects, 12 were requests dealing specifically with issues at the Law Enforcement Center (LEC), County Jail and County-City Building. Project requests included HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) replacement/upgrades, LEC garage and storage expansion and LEC, courtroom and jail improvements/remodeling. Estimated costs for those project requests totaled more than $15 million.
Any number of the projects could come back again this year and may face the same fate, Dreier said.
“(We) have to decide which road do we take, and we have to take a road,” she said. “No one would invest in a project without knowing the direction, and it has to be sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we don’t do the people justice with trying to ensure them we are doing our best stewarding their resources in our future,” she said.
CIP requests are just one piece of the county’s budget puzzle. When the county approves its annual budget late in the calendar year, several different aspects have been discussed, examined, reworked and then agreed upon throughout various departments and community input throughout the year.
Part of the CIP funding comes from the annual operating levy, or that portion paid for through taxes, and another portion comes through borrowing through the county’s debt service, so “A critical eye is needed and we ensure there is good research on the projects,” Dreier said. “You make a really concerted effort not to put off something that’s going to go down tomorrow.”
Some requests not put on hold include road construction and the library remodeling and upgrades.
Part of the review process also takes into consideration whether alternate sources of funding are available or a better option, she said. Last year, five of the seven project requests not included in the CIP plan were designated as having other potential funding. For example, there may be grant funding available, or there may be other budgeting options so the request may still be funded for that year, just in a different way.