By Tracie Cabler & Brian Wheeler Charlottesville Tomorrow Sunday, June 5, 2011
By the end of the summer, the parking lot for the new Crozet Library will be completed. As for the $9.6 million, 20,000-square-foot library itself, Albemarle officials said last week that, absent sufficient capital funding, its start date was uncertain and the project may have missed the window of a very favorable construction market.
Trevor Henry, Albemarle’s manager of facilities development
Trevor Henry, Albemarle’s manager of facilities development, told the Board of Supervisors last week that both the parking lot and final construction documents would be ready for the Crozet Library by August.
“We’re going to have bid opening today for the library parking lot and anticipate … starting work [in] early July,” Henry said.
Henry also predicted that the community had lost a chance to take advantage of low prices in a favorable construction market. According to Henry, Albemarle is seeing construction costs rise again on the library design, as well as other school capital projects.
“The most recent estimate that we just received has that cost estimate at around $6.8 million or just under $300 a square foot,” Henry said, describing the construction costs in the $9.6 million overall project. “The big drivers in that cost estimate change are site work and concrete.”
Citizens of Crozet has grown accustomed to delay when it comes to infrastructure called for in the Crozet Master Plan. That plan identified a new library as a priority back in December 2004.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors approved the library’s plans in 2009 but has been unable to fully fund the project in its capital budget. Meanwhile, Albemarle staff and local leaders have kept the design moving forward to get the project “bid ready.”
In April the Architectural Review Board approved the design and now more than 50 percent of the construction documents for the library have been completed, with final documents anticipated to be ready by early August.
Tim Tolson, secretary for the Crozet Community Advisory Council and a member of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library board, said the completion of the parking lot was an important first step, especially with a streetscape project disrupting other parking.
“The concern with the streetscape project downtown is that traffic will avoid downtown because of construction, detours [and] all of that, and businesses there will not have the customer base that they need to stay in business,” Tolson said in an interview. “We saw it happen with Scottsville … where a lot of those restaurants, after many, many months of construction, had to close …”
Bill Schrader, also a CCAC member, said he was concerned that the increasing cost of the library could create more financial challenges for the project. After Henry’s presentation to the supervisors, Schrader said this could potentially place the library on indefinite hold.
“Who knows what the thinking will be in 2015, 2016, whether they’re going to say the library’s No. 1 or the fire department is No. 1,” Schrader said in an interview. “So if we don’t get it quickly, we’re just back in the hopper with every other project.”
Across the street from the library site, a major commercial development is beginning its review by the Architectural Review Board. Claudius Place is a two-story, 6,067-square-foot building intended to house offices, retail and a restaurant.
Schrader said he was disappointed the county missed a great construction market, but he views Claudius Place as a key indicator that the library will help revitalize downtown Crozet.
“They missed a golden opportunity, we’ll never get back the prices we could have had a year ago,” Schrader said. “I’m down on that side, but I’m up on the side that again Claudius Place says this is what can happen when you put the library in … they understand the growth that happens around the library.”
County Executive Tom Foley said the Crozet Library would be back before the board in August with complete construction documents and a final cost estimate. The supervisors learned in a separate meeting last week that they had an opportunity to refinance some existing debt and make another $10 million available immediately for capital projects. The board is expected to discuss whether to allocate these funds toward the library project in the fall.
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Three members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors said Monday they would support a one cent increase in the real estate property tax to pay for new infrastructure. However, a motion to advertise the higher rate failed on a 3-3 vote.
Supervisor Duane Snow
“It’s important that we maintain our roads, it’s important that we keep working on our infrastructure,” Supervisor Duane Snow said.
Snow was joined in supporting the increased rate by Supervisors Dennis Rooker and Ann Mallek. In the face of a deadlock, a second motion to advertise the rate at 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value was approved unanimously.
The votes came during a work session to discuss the county’s proposed $18.2 million capital improvement program budget for the next fiscal year. The CIP totals $75.4 million over the next five years, with the majority of funding going to maintenance.
“We do think this proposed program does adequately address our existing infrastructure in terms of maintenance and it includes two critical projects,” said assistant county executive Bill Letteri, referring to a new fire station on Ivy Road and renovations at Greer Elementary School.
In FY2012, no funding is allocated towards community development projects, such as sidewalks or new roads. There is also no funding for the county to participate in VDOT’s “revenue-sharing” program where county dollars are matched one-to-one with state money.
Part of Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation package in the recent session of the General Assembly included an increase of funding for the program .
“Not being able to take advantage of the revenue-sharing program is I think extremely imprudent,” Rooker said.
Halfway through the work session, Rooker suggested a one-cent tax increase to raise $1.5 million for capital projects, including participation in VDOT revenue sharing and the construction of a new library in Crozet.
“My expectation is that the making of this public investment will help the entirety of downtown Crozet which will then ultimately provide additional tax revenues,” Rooker said.
However, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said it was not the time to raise taxes, and predicted that the county would get additional revenue from retail developments such as the former Albemarle Place, now known as Stonefield.
“[There are] still a lot of people out of work, and I’m not at a place where I want to increase taxes to pay for a Crozet library,” Boyd said.
Rooker argued that by raising additional revenues to pay for the project now, the county would save money by taking advantage of lower interest rates and lower construction costs. But Boyd, who has made the same argument in advocating for speedy construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, was not persuaded.
“In businesses and our personal lives, we all have lost opportunity costs,” Boyd said. “I agree it’s unfortunate but we don’t have the money right now. I don’t want to put that burden on taxpayers… I think we can weather through it and still move forward as this economy turns around.”
“I think it’s time to tighten our belts maybe a bit more, and hold it tight for a while longer,” Thomas said.
Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier said he could not support the increase because too many people are on fixed incomes and can’t absorb the additional tax.
“The public seems to support [staying at 74.2 cents] because they certainly didn’t come out at the public hearing,” Dorrier said.
But Snow said he could support the increase.
“For that one cent we can add jobs back into the community to help some of these people that are out of work,” Snow said.
With a 3-3 stalemate, Mallek asked Boyd, Thomas and Dorrier if any of them would support an equalized rate of 75 cents, which would bring in the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year.
A 74.2 cent tax actually results in a tax decrease for most property owners because of declining property values. Once the board votes to advertise a tax rate, it can only be decreased, not increased before the adoption of the budget.
Thomas said he wanted to keep the rate as is, and Boyd and Dorrier agreed. A motion by Rooker to adopt an equalized tax rate also failed.
However, that does not necessarily mean the county will not participate in VDOT’s revenue sharing program.
Staff had presented the board with the option of setting aside $448,000 in FY12 to pay for operating costs at the new Ivy fire station when it opens in FY13.
Rooker suggested, however, that the money should be used to ensure the county could participate in VDOT revenue sharing.
Also at the work session, the Board agreed to make a one-time payment of $5,000 to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to support the Hatton Ferry. They also agreed to authorize a half-time employee at the Crozet Library. The library had asked for a full-time employee at a cost of nearly $31,000.
Many other capital projects loom on the horizon, such as the potential need for a new complex to house the county’s court system. In May, the board will hold a work session on long-term funding strategies for that and other capital projects.
During a work session Monday, Assistant County Executive Bryan Elliott reviewed the public safety, human development, community development and parks and recreation sections of the budget.
“Collectively these four functional areas represent about $60 million of the local government operating budget,” Elliot said.
The proposed police budget of $13.05 million has increased by 4.5% over last year. That amount will go to unfreeze two police officer positions at a cost of $154,000 and increased overtime by $125,000. However, three positions remain frozen.
“We anticipate utilizing those revenues for specific traffic safety programs the police department would undertake in FY12,” Elliot said. “This could be anything from paying overtime, for specific enforcement… or purchasing some additional equipment.” He added that traffic enforcement makes up 26% of all police calls.
Supervisor Duane Snow
However, Supervisor Duane Snow questioned this assumption and said he wanted more specific ideas about how the money would be used. Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he would like the money to go towards unfreezing another police officer.
County executive Thomas C. Foley said staff did not want to put the money towards ongoing expenses because the goal of the program is ultimately to stop people from running red lights.
“The objective is actually to see this revenue decline over time,” Foley said. “There’s been some accusation that this is a big revenue generator for us, and it really isn’t.”
The county’s payment to Charlottesville to provide fire-rescue services in the Pantops area will increase by 10.6%.
“In ’09, we were paying roughly $655,000 and for FY12 we’re proposing $845,638,” Elliot said. However, he added some of that increase could have been due to last year’s microburst, which caused damage throughout the area.
Payment to the SPCA is increasing by 25.9% due to a contract signed in 2009 that requires the county to pay $5 per capita to operate an animal shelter on Berkmar Drive. The county’s contribution to the shelter for next year is $477,440.
Supervisor Ann Mallek asked for staff to take a look at the possibility of raising license fees for animals to help cover the cost.
The human development budget will receive a $19 million appropriation, a decrease of 1.1% from the current year.
One expense in that area is the para-transit service JAUNT, which will receive $922,025. The 6.4% increase is due to ridership increases, according to Elliott.
Mallek predicted that there would be a corresponding increase in Crozet residents requesting service if gas prices continue to increase. Supervisor Rodney Thomas asked what options there might be to increase fares to help cover the costs.
“They have not modified the rate for the rural area for some time,” Elliott said. “That is an option if the board wanted.”
Supervisor Ken Boyd said he was concerned that JAUNT was growing into something it was not intended to be.
“JAUNT was originally set up to help disabled people and economically challenged people and its becoming a commuter service,” Boyd said. “You’re talking about Crozet people who can probably afford to drive a car and now they can ride JAUNT cheaper. That’s one of the fallacies of the whole program.”
However, Elliott said revenue from able-bodied commuters helps fund the program.
“The buses are going to run regardless of whether there are commuters there or not and if seats are available, they can be filled,” Elliott said.
The county is proposing a $6.2 million budget for parks, recreation and culture. Of that amount, 52% is spent on the Jefferson Madison Regional Library system, 35% goes to the parks department, 2% is spent on the county’s contribution to Darden Towe Park, and the rest goes to 12 outside agencies.
The library received a 1% increase from the previous year. However, the library is appealing to the board for an additional $31,000 to help cover the cost of one new employee to staff the Crozet Library.
“The reason we asked for that is that the new Crozet Library has been pushed back to 2015 or 2016,” said JMRL Board of Trustees President Anthony Townsend. “What we were asking for was one additional position to help with shelving and circulation.”
Supervisors did not make a decision on how to proceed at this work session, but will do so at a meeting next week after receiving more information on how volunteers are being utilized.
A work session on the school board’s budget was held Wednesday morning. Another session on the capital improvement program budget will be held next Monday.
Elliott’s review involved looking at counties similar to Albemarle to evaluate how much they were spending on libraries. For instance, James City County spends $64 per person for libraries each year, Henrico County spends $53 per capita, and Stafford County spends $36 per capita.
“Albemarle spends $33 per capita, which is ahead of Roanoke, Spotsylvania, Fauquier, Hanover and Chesterfield,” Elliott said. “[JMRL] delivers an efficient and effective library system compared to other localities.”
Under the current agreement that governs JMRL, Albemarle County’s financial contribution is broken down into three categories. First, the county contributes a portion of the system’s administration costs, including system-wide reference and information technology departments . Second, the county and city each pay a portion of the costs of operating the Gordon Avenue, Northside Library, and Central Library on Market Street. Finally, the county pays the full cost of operating the Crozet and Scottsville libraries.
Overall, Albemarle provides 58.9 percent of the total operating costs of JMRL.
One potential area for continued negotiations is the cost-allocation between the city and county for shared libraries. Currently Albemarle contributes 60.7% of the cost of the Central Library, 54.9% for Gordon Avenue and 85.5% of Northside Library.
“Over the course of our analysis, we did not discover anything in writing between the city and the county that set forth those responsibilities,” Elliott said.
Elliott said that state funding to libraries favors a regional system, but also acknowledged those funds were being cut back in response to state budget issues. Also, if the county went independent, it would have to provide its own reference department. A committee would have to divide up all of the assets.
“If the county withdrew, it would only be able to offer just over 21,000 square feet for a population of 90,000,” Elliott said.
The report’s recommendations include:
Consider charging non-residents for services
Further evaluate funding formula for regional services
Evaluate the cost allocation formula city and county for administrative services and operation of bookmobile
Consider increasing Albemarle’s representation on JMRL board
Establish performance indicators to help Albemarle understand how its money is spent
Elliot’s recommendation to supervisors is to revisit the agreement with officials in other jurisdictions as the first step in making amendments. Members of the JMRL Board agreed.
“We would welcome a formal process to haul the regional agreement out and form a commission… to sit down and go over it,” said Tony Townsend, who represents Albemarle on the JMRL board. “Let’s look at the points that are perhaps outdated… come up with a task list for that, and then draft what is essentially a new regional agreement, one that would be updated for the 2nd decade of the 21st century.”
“I think that’s a reasonable approach to it, but I just want to mention one thing,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd. “It’s not that we’re concerned about the need [for libraries]… it all came down to how monies are spent…. Our county is very concerned that we are not in control of how $3 million of our county dollars are spent, and it was turned over to some other board to allocate.”
Supervisor Dennis Rooker pointed out that the library board is a separate governmental body, and that the county has three representatives on it.
“We do not direct their line by line expenditures and never will under the current system,” Rooker said.
Supervisor Duane Snow said he understood that, but suggested the Board of Supervisors should be able to make suggestions as to how county money is used.
“Maybe altering hours… maybe during slow times we close on certain days, or half-day or in the evening,” Snow said. “At the end of the day, it’s still our money.”
JMRL Library Director John Halliday
Rooker said the county really needs to establish a better way of communicating with the JMRL Board to avoid a repeat of last year’s standoff over the closure of the library. He suggested periodic appearances by library director John Halliday to discuss budget concerns.
Elliott said he would begin developing an action plan to present to Halliday by the end of the month.
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Monday, October 11, 2010
Should Albemarle County sell unused government property in order to help pay for other capital improvement projects? The Board of Supervisors last week directed county staff to consider selling some parcels while retaining others for future use.
“To the extent we could sell properties that there’s no planned use for, we may obtain capital to perhaps put into projects that we need,” said Supervisor Dennis Rooker.
The county owns or partially owns about 140 properties assessed at $523 million, according to Bill Letteri, the county’s facilities development director. This does not include property owned by the school system, which is considered a separate owner.
Letteri said 91.7 acres of land valued around $9.76 million were purchased by the county or donated by developers for future public use. One of the biggest pieces of land is 27.48 acres off of Polo Grounds Road that was purchased for use as a future elementary school. It is currently assessed at $1.2 million.
“We felt that it would be prudent to acquire this site, at a good price at the time, and hold on to it,” said county attorney Larry Davis. The land was purchased at below market rate in exchange for a tax credit for the original owner.
County executive Robert Tucker said the land has also been considered as a potential alignment for an extension of the Meadowcreek Parkway that would have connected with Ashwood Boulevard. That idea was discarded after opposition from the Forest Lakes neighborhood.
Rooker questioned if the land could really be used as an elementary school site given the limitations of Polo Grounds Road.
“The railroad bridge and tunnel, which is very unsafe, would cost millions of dollars to widen,” Rooker said. He asked staff to find out from the school system if they had any use for it.
Supervisor Ann Mallek said if the Places29 master plan’s vision of a high density urban ring is realized, the county should hold the land.
“If we had a big population growth there in the next 50 years, this would be an ideal place to have a school,” Mallek said.
Supervisors also reached consensus to consider selling a 4.75 parcel at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Ashwood Boulevard that is worth $1.86 million and has been considered for either a new library or for a grade-separated interchange. One issue for staff to investigate is whether there would be legal complications with selling land been proffered for public use.
Supervisors also directed staff to investigate selling 7 acres on Route 20 near the site of what used to be the Keene landfill on Route 20, as well as a parcel of land adjacent to Agnor-Hurt Elementary School.
Another parcel of land that the county may put up for sale is an 8.56 acre parcel received in the early 1980’s as part of the creation of the Earlysville Forest neighborhood. Once recommended for use as a park, a committee recommended in 1993 that the project not go forward.
Davis said the county has the power to make it developable.
“The county has a lot control over zoning and other issues,” Davis said. “If you wanted to make it a developable parcel, the county may have the power to do that, but it may be an unpopular decision.”
Supervisors agreed to hold on to several dozen acres near Monticello High School and the Monticello Fire Station worth around $5 million. The land could be used in the future as a potential middle school, or for some other government complex. Supervisors dismissed the notion of converting the land to a temporary use, such as athletic fields.
Letteri will return to the board at a future meeting with a report further evaluating land sale opportunities.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST: • 01:00 - Presentation from Bill Letteri • 05:00 - Discussion of "land-banked properties" • 06:45 - Discussion of Earlysville Village land • 13:00 - Discussion of land near Agnor-Hurt • 13:45 - Discussion of land near Monticello High School • 16:30 - Discussion moves back to Agnor-Hurt property • 18:30 - Discussion of Polo Grounds Road property • 25:30 - Discussion of land on U.S. 29 near Forest Lakes • 31:00 - Further discussion of land near Monticello High School • 36:00 - Discussion of Keene property • 40:00 - Discussion of Old Jail property in Charlottesville
“Back in June, when I asked to have a meeting with the library [Board of Trustees], I was told that within a couple of months we’d be having something back from staff,” Supervisor Ann Mallek said Wednesday. “[January] is way too late, from my perspective, in the budget process.”
“For that amount of money we could take care of the libraries in the county very easily,” Supervisor Duane Snow said.
The library agreement describes how costs are to be shared among JMRL’s six jurisdictions. All jurisdictions contribute to library administration and system-wide services. Charlottesville and Albemarle County both contribute to the funding of the Central, Gordon Avenue and Northside libraries.
Albemarle County is the sole supporter of both the Crozet and Scottsville branches.
“We’re under-serving our residents because we’re dumping the biggest portion into city facilities,” Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said, adding that he would prefer to spend money on the Crozet and Northside libraries.
On March 17, 2010, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held their fourth work session related to the FY 2011 budget. During this meeting, the Board reiterated its commitment to provide $2.03 million to the Piedmont Family YMCA for construction of its new facility in McIntire Park, received an update on school funding, reviewed proposed additions to the budget, and discussed capital funding needs.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the board voted 4-2 to advertise a real estate property tax rate of 74.2 cents for the 2010 calendar year (Boyd, Dorrier, Snow & Thomas in favor; Mallek & Rooker against).
Having set the maximum tax rate, the County budget will proceed to a public hearing on March 31st. The Board is expected to adopt a final budget and tax rate at their meeting on April 7th.
00:02:12 - Statement by Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett), on behalf of the board, reiterating the County's support for providing $2.03 million in capital funding for the construction of the YMCA facility.
00:02:52 - County Executive Bob Tucker introduces budget work session
00:03:15 - Ron Price, Chairman of the Albemarle County School Board, updates the board on the state budget's impact on the school's budget.
00:35:00 - Richard Wiggans, Albemarle County Director of Finance, provides update on the general fund revenues from the state. The state budget
provides and additional $350,000 to local gov (excluding schools).
00:38:00 - Tucker informs the board that a 76.2 cent tax rate
covers budget additions proposed by Supervisors w/ 2 cents dedicated
for capital needs.
00:40:00 - Supervisors ask questions about Family Support Workers and Bright Stars Program.
00:44:30 - Supervisor Ken Boyd expresses concerns about "picking out winners and losers" in the course of the board's discussion as to whether anything should be added back to Tucker's budget.
Supervisors begin reviewing list of 10 proposed additions to budget
totaling about $440,000. The board has made no reductions to Tucker's
discussing restoration of $158,657 to level fund regional library system. Boyd
has suggested in 2 previous meetings withdrawing from Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (JMRL) system.
01:07:13 - Clark Draper, Scottsville Town Administrator, speaks in support of Scottsville Library and Scottsville Community Center.
01:13:15 - Boyd
says he will support library funding and asks for consideration of
system in the board's June 2010 strategic planning mtg.
01:15:45 - Tim Tolson, JMRL Trustee, says if libraries are level-funded he will recommend other methods for closing a remaining $85,000 budget deficit without resorting to cutting of hours at Scottsville and Crozet branches. Albemarle
Supervisors reach consensus to level fund regional library system w/
$158,657 addition to Tucker's budget.
01:23:20 - Supervisor Ann
Mallek (White Hall)
says she supports adding 2 cents to Albemarle's 74.2 cent tax rate to generate
additional $3.073 million for capital budget.