Vienna's most recent Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) calls for nearly $1.5 million more in bonds than any other issue in the past two decades.
Even with several last-minute reductions, including one of more than 50 percent in funding for Town Hall renovations, the plan reviewed at a Town Council work session Monday calls for $6.4 million across more than two dozen projects, a jump above the town's self-imposed limit of $5 million.
The town goes out for bonds about every four years to fund major public improvements. It repays the debt service using revenues from the town's 3-percent meals tax.
Finance Director Phil Grant said the town can expect to sell even more in bonds over the next decade: He expects a $7 million list in 2016 and $7.5 million in 2020 before the town comes close to exhausting its debt capacity — by 2024, it would be limited to just $1 million in bonds, he said.
In this year's issue, town staff decided to cut $525,000 from planned town hall renovations and another $65,000 from police station assessment and improvements and redirect that money toward the town's water and sewer system, which a consultant told town council this summer would need at least $1 million a year to maintain its current level of service.
When it goes out for the bonds this year, the town will likely take advantage of a historically low 2.5 percent interest rate. Down the road, however, Grant is allotting for a rate as high as 6 percent.
The town nixed more extensive $825,000 renovations for Town Hall in favor of improveing "the bare bones," Director of Public Works Dennis Johnson told the council. It will include carpet, ceiling, new lights, and windows; a new HVAC system and a revamped council chamber, along with two small rooms on the second floor to address capacity issues.
The re-imagined project will cost just $300,000 in this issue, which is largely to cover design costs: Construction is already paid for with $1.8 million in bonds from an earlier issue, Johnson said.
Last year, the town council considered a new town hall and municipal parking garage, but that proposal is now off the table, members said this week.
Police Space To Be Assessed, But New Station On Hold
The town also found savings by scaling back an assessment of the Vienna Police Department facilities on Center Street.
The plan calls for $100,000 to study how the department can better utilize its space, look to rent additional office space elsewhere, or, if a new facility is a better solution.
The department has already made an evidence processing area into a server room and moved small working groups outside of the building — part of the detective reconstructive team is currently working in the basement of town hall, Police Chief Bob Carlisle said.
"In every function way and in every functional area we’re way undersized,” Carlisle said.
The CIP also includes $235,000 for an emergency power generator at the station, a need Carlisle has mentioned in several work sessions over the course of the past year.
Council members asked if the department had explored other funding sources to meet some of its more urgent needs, but "we're afraid of waiting any longer for grant opportunities," Carlisle said. "If we find any other way that’s the way we’ll do it."
Community Center Expansion Explored
The town's Community Center hasn't had an expansion since 1988; $125,000 in this issue will launch an expansion assessment to asses what other amenities — a fitness center, indoor pool, parking, playing courts and gym space, among them — the center and surrounding land can accommodate.
"We’re looking to bring our facilities up to the 21st century," said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado, who said residents often reference the facilities at Herndon and Oak Marr as those they'd like to see in Vienna. "Indications we get on a daily basis is that they're looking for a facility that provides them with more variety, and the opportunity to recreate within the Town of Vienna [instead of having to travel outside it]."
Several council members threw their support behind surveying residents at some point in the assessment process — if not before — to see which facilities they actually want and need, and how much they'd be willing to pay for them.
"We need some professional help to see where we want to go in the most economical manner within parameters we think would be appropriate to lessen any type of burden on our residents or the taxes they pay," Salgado said.
Several council members said they receieved a number of calls and emails about more funding for sidewalks.
Councilwoman Laurie DiRocco said she'd like to see the town more frequently update its status on completing sidewalk projects online and also how far on the town's priority list the $500,000 dedicated to sidewalk projects in this issue would go.
"It would be nice to have a timeline and I think that's what people are kind of looking for, is a plan," DiRocco said.
Councilwoman Laurie Cole noted the amount the town will actually spend on sidewalk projects in town is larger than what's listed in the issue, thanks to grants and funding from Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other grants.
"Even though the line item says half a million, other things factor in," Cole said.