Councilors OK five-year spending ‘snapshot’

By Sean C. Morgan

Lebanon Local

The Lebanon City Council approved a five-year $62 million Capital Improvement Plan during its regular meeting Wednesday evening, Jan. 8. 

The Capital Improvement Plan was last updated two years ago, said interim City Manager Ron Whitlach. “The Capital Improvement Plan is a five-year snapshot. We look at a five-year window, what’s out there, what’s coming.”

The proposed projects help maintain and improve existing infrastructure and help Lebanon keep up with continued growth, Whitlach said. “This is 30,000-foot planning. We don’t have any design to this. It’s just looking at it and going, ‘All right, what are our needs that we know of?’ Tomorrow that might change. That’s why we try to update this every year.”

Many granting agencies require cities to have a capital improvement plan, Whitlach said. As the plan stands, more than half of the projected funding would need to come from grants, loans and other sources of revenue. 

“Not to worry,” Whitlach quipped, drawing laughs from the councilors. “We’re going to have a bake sale.”

The $62 million “is not a realistic goal,” he said, but as grants and funding come up, the city can pay for the projects. 

The city is not bound by the document, he noted, but it does serve as a guide during the budgeting process. 

The Capital Improvement Plan includes proposed projects in parks and facilities, storm drainage, transportation, wastewater and water. 

In parks, “probably our number-one biggest thing is Cheadle Lake Regional Park,” Whitlach said. “That’s 99 percent grant funds. We don’t have $4 million sitting there to do that. The same with some of these others.”

The plan includes a new City Hall with a ballpark price tag of $10 million, although the money is not there at this point, Whitlach said. 

In the area of drainage, the city is in the middle of a master plan update, Whitlach said. 

“We’ve got some priority drainage projects in there, one being Cedar Drive. Ralston and Harmony is another one. Those are all on dry wells, so those are priorities out there. But with the amount of revenue we generate with our storm drainage utility, it takes a long time to get there.”

In transportation, The city receives $190,000 to $200,000 from the state in surface transportation funds, he said. “Whether we spend all that in one year or whether we compile it and do it in three years and make a bigger project of it, we’ve got a long list of streets that need repair.”

The list also includes urban redevelopment district projects and bridge maintenance. 

In wastewater, the city has been approved by Department of Environmental Quality for a $14 million loan for its $21 million Westside Interceptor project, Whitlach said The city also has another $4.5 to $5 million available over the three-year term of the project. The city has requested funds from the state legislature to help.  

“We’ll make sure that (loan) doesn’t affect the (wastewater) rate at this point,” Whitlach said. 

The next big project will be dealing with disposal of bio-solids and head works at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, he said. The plan also includes the demolition of the old Water Treatment Plant.

Present at the meeting were Wayne Rieskamp, Rebecca Grizzle, Michelle Steinhebel, Jason Bolen, Karin Stauder and Robert Furlow. Mayor Paul Aziz was absent. 

In other business, the council:

♦ Updated the city’s ordinance dealing with dangerous dogs. 

Police Chief Frank Stevenson told the council that the changes will allow him to assign others to determine when a dog is deemed dangerous and subject to being euthanized. The ordinance previously required the chief to make that determination. 

It also includes flexibility and allows more discretion, he said. In some situations, the ordinance may require a dog be euthanized while ignoring unique circumstances, such as a dog killing a cat that enters its backyard. It also allows the possibility of relocating dangerous dogs instead of euthanizing them. 

“I’ve always looked at this and thought, ‘Man, I really wish I could find some other alternative rather than to euthanize a dog who was being a dog,’” Stevenson said. “We’ve had dogs that aren’t dangerous but acted stupid and can be salvageable and be saved. I’d rather have that as an option.”

The ordinance revision also requires appeals go to the Municipal Court rather than the police chief. 

“I can speak from experience,” said Stauder, a former police officer. “Where it was black and white and you don’t have that discretion, you have a cat who jumps into the backyard of a dog and it’s no fault of the dog. I think this is a really great addition to the city ordinance.”

♦ Updated city ordinance governing floodplain management to comply with updated standards. 

♦ Removed a requirement to publish notices in newspapers for land use planning-related hearings except where state law requires it. 

♦ Authorized staff to seek bids for a water line replacement project on Sherman Street between 7th and 10th streets, where 2-inch water lines, serving 60 residential lots, are undersized with multiple reported leaks. The line will be replaced with 6-inch pipes at an estimated cost of $150,000 to $200,000.