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Sidewalks could be delayed

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday approved the town’s 2009-10 Capital Improvement Plan, but left open the possibility of delaying some sidewalk projects because of the uncertain economic climate.

Several board members said they were hesitant to move forward with non-essential projects during difficult economic times and would like to work with staff to determine which projects are essential and which aren’t. The $33.3 million CIP includes greenways, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, the Northern Area Fire Substation, park maintenance and repair, the Public Works facility, sidewalks, street resurfacing, town parking lots, Weaver Street reconstruction, information technology improvements and equipment/vehicle lease-purchase.

Costs of the recommended CIP projects are equivalent to about 20 cents on the town tax rate, or about 29 percent of the current tax rate.

Board member Jackie Gist said she would like to find a way to link revenues from planned developments to non-essential projects in the town’s CIP so that the projects wouldn’t be developed until the town began receiving revenue from the planned developments.

“Years ago, we decided that in order to pay for some of the things that the town wanted … we would increase the density downtown in order to increase our non-residential tax base so that we could have the services that some citizens were asking for,” Gist said.

Board member Dan Coleman said he would like to explore the possibility of delaying sidewalk projects planned for 2009-10.

Sidewalk projects account for about $5 million of the 2009-10 CIP.

A 2003 bond referendum authorized the town to spend up to $4.6 million on sidewalks and greenway trails. Phase one included 20 projects throughout Carrboro and the town has completed 2.82 miles of the 5.74 miles of proposed sidewalk projects.

Construction has begun on sidewalks along James Street and remaining sidewalk projects include Shelton, Bim, Ashe, Estes, Elm, Pine and Davie.

Coleman said that while he would like to see the sidewalks completed in order to increase the town’s walkability, the projects weren’t essential and could be delayed.

“The neighborhoods have gone without sidewalks from when they were built until now,” he said.
Gist agreed.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and I do know that we have residents that are feeling the strain.” Therefore, she said, she favors doing anything the board can to lessen the tax burden and not create a new one, “while at the same time being able to maintain what we have.

“I would much rather delay some sidewalks than to have necessary positions go unfilled or not be able to meet the needs of our employees.”

Mayor Mark Chilton said he felt uncomfortable delaying some sidewalk projects.

“I’m open to this discussion, but I will say that I really view the proposed Estes Drive Extension sidewalk … as a very pressing need,” he said. “I’m really reluctant to let go of moving forward with that project.”

Town Manager Steve Stewart said the board would need to decide shortly after the beginning of 2009 if they wanted to delay sidewalk projects, because the planning process for some of those projects is already underway. He added that it could be beneficial to complete plans for some of the projects before delaying construction because of increasing costs.

Weaver Street improvements

The approved 2009-10 CIP includes more than $1.5 million to reconstruct Weaver Street, which is necessary because of the poor condition of the existing sub-grade and base of the road.

The project includes the removal and reconstruction of the existing road, removal and replacement of curb and gutter, the installation of additional storm inlets and piping to improve storm drainage in the West Main Street to North Greensboro Street block and the replacement of an existing 12-inch water main in both blocks.

Also; the travel lanes would be narrowed in order to allow for bike lanes.

The project has been delayed for several years, with the problems first identified in 1997, and according to town officials can’t be delayed much longer because of the increasing costs of temporary repairs.

In other town business, the board set a public hearing for Nov. 25 for a proposed 39-unit subdivision at 8400 and 8420 Reynard Road.

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