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Commissioners get first look at capital projects

By LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

A number of capital improvement projects -- chief among them the improvement of E-911 infrastructure and the renovation of City Hall -- came under discussion during a pre-budget workshop Tuesday of the Paducah City Commission.

The overview of the city's projects, as well as its general and investment funds, comes ahead of a budget presentation scheduled for the third week of May, City Manager Jeff Pederson said. Pederson and Finance Director Jonathan Perkins led Tuesday's workshop.

The E-911 and City Hall projects are in the top three of 20 capital projects as ranked by city staff. Phases I and II of the E-911 project will cost an estimated $3.9 million and $8 million, respectively.

The first phase involves replacing CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) and telephone systems, and the city has $900,000 already set aside for that portion of the project. A bond issue would provide the remaining funds. The city would likely put the CAD and telephone systems out for bid in early summer, Pederson said.

"We are the first step in the emergency response. We have a very safe community, and that's something we're all very proud of, and something that makes a big difference to our citizens and our stakeholders," he said.

The first phase of the City Hall renovation will cost close to $4.9 million. A combination of historic tax credits, remaining funds from an earlier City Hall design project, and reserve funds from the city's general fund and solid waste fund would likely go toward that project. It would involve improvements to the structure's roof, canopy, heating and air conditioning systems, windows and façade.

"This is a critical building. It may be hard for some people to accept it, but this is the core of city government, and it needs to be functional," Pederson said, describing some of the systems, such as the air conditioning, as in "an advanced stage of deterioration."

Pederson added that a "favorable response" is expected from the city's efforts to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which would provide an estimated $487,000 in tax credits.

Other top-ranking projects included improvements to the storm water systems and sidewalks in the Fountain Avenue neighborhood, a $5 million investment into a riverfront commons area and the conversion of Broadway and Jefferson, with the addition of bike lanes.

The 20-item list also covered improvements to parks, plazas, streetlights, roads, generators and softball fields.

Commissioners Richard Abraham and Sandra Wilson said they would like to see softball field improvements at Stuart Nelson Park, which rank at 18, to move higher on the list.

"If these projects were ranked based on immediate economic impact to our city, No. 18 would move quickly up the ladder," Abraham said. "If you're talking about getting a bang for your buck â ¦ youth athletics is at the top of the chart."

Although the board of commissioners and Pederson talked about what projects could be funded from the city's investment fund, which has about $364,000 to be allocated for the 2018 fiscal year, commissioners decided they needed more time to think it over.

Pederson and Perkins also reviewed the general fund, which draws from payroll tax -- the city's largest source of funding -- as well as business license taxes, real estate property taxes and insurance premium taxes. These combined sources yield a projected revenue of $28.7 million for the 2018 fiscal year, according to city spokeswoman Pam Spencer.

Items expected to receive funding through the city's investment fund are debt service; streets and sidewalks; ongoing commitments (such as mural maintenance and neighborhood revitalization); historic commitments, like the Community Scholarship Program and demolitions and foreclosures; and small capital projects.

Projected revenue for the investment fund, which comes from a quarter of the city's 2 percent payroll tax, is $5.45 million, Spencer reported.

In other business, commissioners approved an ordinance amending the end date for the non-exclusive franchise agreement between the city and Comcast Cable to Oct. 11 of this year.

They also finalized a change order with Jim Smith Contracting Company for construction of the Olivet Church Road Improvement Project, reducing the contract by $114,000, which brings its current amount to $6,266,136. The project included the widening of Olivet Church Road to three lanes and the improvement of drainage, gutters and sidewalks, as well as building a five-lane stretch of road linking the mall area to Olivet Church Road.

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