Five-Year Capital improvement plan presented to Gardner City Council

Lynne Hermansen
Gardner News

City finance director Matt Wolff presented the upcoming 2024-2028 capital improvement plan for to Gardner City Council members during their May 1 meeting.

Wolff shared a project summary as well as funding and debts for the sewer, water, wastewater, airport, parks and special highway funds.

Wolff said the sewer and streets fund will take the lion’s share of the CIP over the next four years. The sewer and street projects total roughly about $52 million, he said. Water projects will be $8 million, electric projects will be $7 million, airports $4 million and $1 million for parks and recreation.

Wolff noted those dollar amounts also include grants and debt funding proceeds, making the amounts higher.

Street and storm water infrastructure projects include the Gardner Road Bridge spanning Interstate 35, $33.7 million; the Center Street rehabilitation from Warren Street to West 167th Street, $1.3 million to be completed in 2024, I-35 and U.S. Highway 56 interchange improvements,$1.1 million and Cherokee rehabilitation project, from the west city limits to Center Street, to be completed in 2025. Additional projects include the mill and overlay of Old 56 Highway, $1 million in 2026. West 175th Street from Osage Street to Waverly Road, $684,000 in 2027; Gardner Road from West 188th Street to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train tracks for $2.3 million and West 167th Street from Center Street to Moonlight Road Reconstruction, $11 million, in 2028.

The special highway fund, which is funded through taxes from gas, county sales and grants, is funding the project.

Wolff said the special highway fund peaks in 2024 and 2028, and officials plan on spending it down for debt service.

“One thing to note is that we try to do these major road projects every three to four years,”he said. “We have a lot of street projects going on over the next five years, so we probably won’t have the funds for another major road project until 2033. We could probably do some smaller street preservation projects though.”

Park improvements are for Winwood Park in 2024 and Stone Creek Park in 2026, with each park costing $500,000. The parks will have their 20-year-old playground equipment replaced.

The park improvement fund will provide the funding through park impact fees and revenue driven by development. The 2022 fund balance is $543,412, but the estimated revenue for the next two years is $300,000 per year.

“Any slow down in development could delay park improvement,” Wolff said. “Also the city may choose to waive some of the park impact fees if the developer builds some kind of upgrade or value with our master plan and parks department master plan goals.”

Wolff said there was a chance the Stone Creek Park project could be moved up to 2025 if the sufficient funds were received.

Mayor Todd Winters asked if the $500,000 for the parks project include inclusive play. Parks and recreation director Jason Bruce said that once they get through the rebuild of Veterans Park, they would like to identify inclusive components when they start rehabilitating the aged-out park areas.

A free-standing K9 kennel for two canines at $55,000 for 2024 is another project. The funds will come from the general fund and the Law Dogs program.

Currently, the Gardner Police Department K9 has to be left in a running vehicle when the handler is at the station. If the handler is on vacation, the K9 has to be lodged at a business out of town or another officer has to stay at the handler’s residence. Wolff said a new kennel would allow the police K9 to be lodged on-site.

Wolff explained airport projects include the construction of a turf taxiway in 2024 at $160,000, and to acquire a land tract for $475,000. The land acquisition will help with future improvement of Runway 17-35.

He added that the new $3.1 million terminal building in 2025 was an exciting project. Other projects include the 2027 reconstruction of west apron for $850,000 and east apron in 2028 for $46,000. Funding will come from hangar rents, fuel sales and grants. Wolff said the projects were also dependent on grant funding.

“The important takeaway is the fund balance is pretty steady at $400,000 throughout the entire five-year period,” he said. “The airport fund looks healthy right now, please note the enterprise funds are expected to pay the general fund allocation, which compensates general and administrative supports.”

Wolff said historically the airport had not been able to pay those costs, which were subsidized by the general fund.

The electric fund has power line projects for 2024 and 2025 for $600,000. Substation one will also have an upgrade in 2024 for $1.1 million, while 2028 will have a $500,000 new design for a megawatt generation.The electric fund balance ended 2022 with $12.7 million and a capital reserve fund balance of $3.2 million

Wolff said the city implemented rate and fee reductions in March.

“It will take some time to see the impacts of those changes,” he said.

Wolff said they will look at using cash for the improvements instead of issuing debt.

A new water transmission line in 2024-2025 for $8.3 million is the city’s one major water project. The preliminary design for the project is this year for $1.1 million. Water fund dollars will support the project.

Water fund revenue comes from water services and system development fees. The city approved a rate increase of 3.7 percent each year through 2029. Wolff said the increases support those projects and the Hillsdale Treatment Plant expansion.

Wastewater plant improvements total approximately $64.8 million. Wolff said some of the projects had been moved up, including the Kill Creek Facility, because after they had approved the expansion project for 2026 they noticed the plant was at 90 percent capacity.

“As you can imagine, moving up approximately $40 million in capital projects even a few years will have noticeable impact on our wastewater utility and rate structure,” he said. “We are currently evaluating different approaches for financing these improvements in order to reduce the impact on our utility customers.”

The next steps are for the county to send updated valuation estimates and calculate the revenue neutral rate on June 15, setting the budget policy notably with highlights and initiatives and water and wastewater rates for June 20, presenting the improvement plan to the planning commission on June 27 and then considering a resolution regarding the revenue neutral rate on July 3.