City of Greensboro considers paring down capital improvement projects on bond list

by Jordan Green

At-large Greensboro Councilman Robbie Perkins (right) and City Manager Rashad Young chat with constituents in District 2 on Monday night. (photo by Jordan Green)

The Greensboro City Council was scheduled to discuss the possibility of paring down the amount of bond debt to be issued next spring during a briefing on Tuesday, at the suggestion of City Manager Rashad Young.

The council had previously planned to issue $35 million in bond debt next spring to pay for projects approved by voters in 2006 and 2008.

“Our driver is we don’t want any additional debt expense that we have to cover from the general fund,” Young said after a community budget meeting at the Maple Street police substation on Monday night. Young said that for every $1 million in bond debt issued, the city typically has to pay about $100,000, or 10 percent, in debt service, and that the council’s policy has been to only issue as much new debt as it retires old debt so as to not increase “overall debt expense.”

One item on the list that Young ruled out for postponement is an aquatic center at the Greensboro Coliseum that voters approved in 2008.

“The $6 million for the aquatic center is committed to the building [activity that is] underway,” Young said. “Everything else is fairly flexible in terms of our decision.”

Another item on the list is $8.3 million for street improvements, also approved by voters in 2008, that includes Merritt Drive, High Point Road streetscaping, Horse Pen Creek Road, the Cone Boulevard and Nealtown Road Connector, Alamance Church Road, sidewalks and maintenance.

Goldie Wells, the former council representative for District 2, pleaded for a key transportation priority in northeast Greensboro.

“Council members: Please remember that Cone Nealtown Road [has been in line for funding] for about 20 years,” she said.

Young offered reassurance by stating that if the council opts to delay projects it will probably be looking for ones with a bigger price tag to realize more significant savings than the Cone-Nealtown project would yield. Afterward, he explained that the 2008 bond money for the project is only for the purposes of project design and right-of-way purchase, and that the more significance expense of construction likely won’t be absorbed by the city for at least two years.

Other projects on the list include

• $3.3 million for the Old Randleman Road Fire Station (District 1, approved in 2006);

• $750,000 for land acquisition for the Reedy Fork Fire Station (District 2, approved in 2006);

• $2.1 million for the Hilltop Road recreation center (District 5, approved in 2006);

• $2 million for economic development (approved in 2006);

• $3.5 million for the Lake Jeanette Library (District 3, approved in 2006);

• $100,000 for neighborhood park renovations (approved in 2008);

• $500,000 for Gateway Gardens Phase II (District 1, approved in 2008);

• $335,000 for housing loans for energy efficiency and affordable housing (approved in 2008); and

• $8.3 million for the Natural Science Center.

Responding to a question from the audience, Young acknowledged that the city has not yet budgeted for the operation of the aquatic center, explaining that he received a budget proposal from Coliseum Director Matt Brown last week, but that the two have not discussed it yet.

“There will certainly be an additional expense,” Young said. “The question at this point is how that expense is going to get addressed. Is it going to get covered within the coliseum’s budget based on the fees that they generate from the activities of the facility or it going to require something additional from the general fund to cover that? And I haven’t made a determination on that.”

The city recently created a position for aquatic center manager, and hired Susan Braman to fill it at a salary of $65,000.