Weigh-in day is at hand for residents

Today, Carson City residents can begin weighing in officially on a $29 million plan for community capital improvements.

Proposed projects, discussed or cussed for months or even over recent years, would include business corridor improvements on Carson and East William streets, a multipurpose athletic center (MAC) and an Animal Services facility primarily for stray dogs and cats. An increase in the consolidated city’s sales tax by one-eighth of a penny would help finance the projects.

Streetscape changes in the downtown business corridor have been on the drawing board for at least eight years. In other locales, they have been on some people’s wish list through the recession and on the radar screen this year. Community Development Director Lee Plemel says such upgrades can enhance the city’s economic recovery over time.

“Similar streetscape-improvement projects across the country have been proven to increase property values and taxable sales for those areas,” he has said, “which leads to increased revenues that help pay or city services for the entire community. They also consistently lead to more private investment than the original public investment.”

Despite such talk, residents opposing the idea seem certain to sound off against the plan or specific aspects again. For example, Bob Lamkin of Bob’s Shell downtown on Monday questioned borrowing under current circumstances.

“Borrowing money to do something that does not have to be done at this time doesn’t make any sense to me,” Lamkin said. He has been vocal in his opposition to dropping from two lanes of traffic heading both north and south on Carson Street downtown to just one lane going each way. His Monday comment, however, widened his stance to decry using the city sales-tax hike to underpin bonded indebtedness in financing the projects.

The downtown part of the proposal, outlined in the official plan of expenditure, says the downtown part of the streetscape projects ”may include reducing Carson Street to one through lane in each direction, adding bike lanes, and adding a turn lane at intersections” along with other changes. It is “generally in accordance with the Downtown Envision Plan prepared in 2006” and calls for dropping the number of lanes.

Other streetscape enhancements are proposed for North and South Carson streets, along with East William Street, and each is more in the planning stages. Plemel, meanwhile, wasn’t alone in explaining the plan.

Roger Moellendorf, Parks and Recreation Department director, says the 41,500-square-foot Big MAC project is needed because there is little room left in city and school facilities for indoor recreation expansion. He said a larger version costing up to $8.5 million could help meet current needs and allow for expansion.

The so-called Mini-MAC version, which could be built for just the $5.7 million already set aside, wouldn’t include tournament-sized basketball courts to help lure outside events. As city government’s plan of expenditure for the MAC put it, the larger version “would be multi-functional and allow for tournament play to provide enhanced economic vitality.”

The plan of expenditure noted the Animal Services facility would replace an existing pound constructed about 50 years ago and promote public safety. It would be almost 11,000 square feet and cost $4 million, accommodating 134 dogs, 104 cats and seven exotic animals. The current facility can handle 32 dogs, 33 cats and no exotics.

“The total facility cost is approximately $4 million, but private donations have already begun to be collected,” said a city government news release. It said such donations would “help offset the cost.”

The plan of expenditure, which the Board of Supervisors will act on Feb. 20 after residents weigh in during the trio of workshop meetings, explained that city government financing likely will be from bonds, notes or other obligations as well as sources to “pay for certain of the costs of the projects on a pay-as-it-goes basis.” The city cited possible grants and donations as among the other financing methods.

City expenditure of the first $1 million or so from a city sales-tax hike would be used for project design costs, holding actual bond issuance in abeyance for a year and then doing two bond issues. The initial one would be for up to $14 million, a later one for up to $4 million. Projects would be staged and then phased in over time.

A city breakout of projected financing calls for $17.8 million over time from the city sales-tax hike and bonding, $11.7 million from grants and other funds.


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