Council Questions Capital Improvement List
SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council indicated this week that it in the future would like to see a more realistic Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) presented for annual review.
Acknowledging that the CIP is basically a wish list of upcoming projects, several council members said Monday that past CIPs have seemed overloaded with many projects having to be shelved for years.
The issue was raised by Councilwoman Laura Mitchell during a work session this week. This year’s CIP, which is a five-year outlook plan on city projects, was being discussed when Mitchell mentioned that she’s seen a pattern during her years reviewing similar plans.
“It’s kind of a delicate question so forgive me if I stumble through this like a bull in a china shop,” she said. “I’ve noticed a pattern of it seems like when we have a number of things in here a couple of them get done but most of them just keep getting pushed back year after year after year. Is that strictly a financial issue?”
All projects included in any year’s CIP are “advanced with the expectation that they can be funded,” according to Tom Stevenson, city administrator. He reminded the council that this is his first year being involved with the CIP as a city administrator but, to the best of his knowledge, everything is based on the funding that should be available.
According to Council President Jake Day, the philosophy that Salisbury has used with CIP’s in the past has not been wrong but probably could be better defined. While he believes that all of the projects that the city is considering should be cataloged in the plan, he would like to see priority projects better categorized.
One thing that Day has noticed is a tendency to bunch up projects into one year when it’s unlikely that the council will be able to secure funding for the entire batch in one budget.
“Why not spread those things out further?” he asked.
Mitchell agreed, especially since having already served several years on the council, she’s noticed that projects can easily get caught in limbo.
“By the third to fourth time you see this and it keeps getting moved out and out, then I wonder, ‘Well, how important are these things if it’s been three years already or four years already. Are they really going to make it another three years?’” she said.
It raises the question of how serious the council is when updating the CIP if major projects are shuffled off year after year, Mitchell continued. Like Day, Mitchell is in favor of keeping all of the projects listed in the plan to keep them on the radar but thinks that the financially viable should be indicated as such.
“So I like having everything in there, it just would be nice to know if hey, this needs to be done and we hope someone hits the lottery or a big grant falls out of the sky,” she said.
Each of the projects listed in the CIP are viable to some degree, according to Keith Cordrey, director of Internal Services. Cordrey told the council that for any project to make the mark his staff has to be able to justify the need and the city’s potential to follow through.
“I didn’t want to come here and try to justify these projects when I couldn’t,” said Cordrey.
However, he admitted that it’s easy for projects to slip through the cracks from year to year if the funding isn’t readily available.
Stevenson promised the council that the administration would look for ways to streamline the CIP.
“I think maybe going forward we can forward a document to the council that is a little bit more realistic and we can continue to catalog those needs and desires and wishes but with the understanding that this is more realistic and we can probably get these things done,” Stevenson said.