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Toledo's planning commission gave the green light Thursday to the city's largest capital improvements budget in five years, a plan with heavy emphasis on street repairs that would be supported by $20 million in new debt.
The $61 million proposal, most of which has been approved in pieces by council, is about a third bigger than all the city's capital improvements budgets since the economic recession began in 2008.
Bell administration officials said the new debt falls within conservative estimates of what the city can afford and will allow the city to move forward with an ambitious road-resurfacing program and fulfill other needs.
"We are going to pave roads regardless. They need to be paved," Finance Director Patrick McLean said. "It makes a lot of sense to pave our roads now as opposed to wait until they deteriorate further."
Mr. McLean said the city's debt obligations are set to drop significantly between 2014 and 2015. The new debt would be structured to coincide with that dropoff, he said, while also taking advantage of current low interest rates.
The five-member planning commission unanimously recommended the capital improvements plan, based on its adherence to the city's standards for land use and neighborhood development.
The proposal moves to a council committee for review on Thursday before it can be sent to the full council for a final vote. The total plan is for five years, but City Council and the administration focused on the 2012 portion.
"I think the world of it. I think it's a great, great plan," said planning commission Director Calvin Lawshe, who said he is especially supportive of the street paving work. "Our streets are in need of what we're planning to get done."
Many pieces of the plan, including the streets portion, already have council's approval.
However, the overall budget must pass before the city can issue bonds to finance the full program, Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said.
The budget contains $6.3 million in unapproved requests, including almost $700,000 to buy police surveillance cameras, $390,000 to establish an in-house payroll system, $1 million for upgrades to an antiquated system at the Hoffman Road landfill, and $325,000 for a three-phase road and waterline project at Forest Cemetery.
For the street repaving program, just more than $12 million will come from the city's capital improvements fund. The total expenditure on roads set for this year is $28.7 million, with the balance coming from state and federal grants, Mr. Herwat said.
In addition, the Bell administration plans to spend $600,000 to repair sidewalks throughout the city.
Toledo's police and fire departments are also slated for capital improvements funding.
In addition to the money for surveillance cameras, the city is seeking $650,000 for fire trucks and $730,000 for police cars.
Just more than $400,000 would be set aside for major building repairs, which include window replacement at the Toledo Municipal Court and upgrades to several city pools.
Mr. Herwat said the city plans to open Wilson, Willys, Pickford, Navarre, Wilson, and Roosevelt pools this summer.
The administration plans to spend $390,000 to bring its payroll system in-house, something that currently costs the city about $200,000 a year, Mr. Herwat said.
An additional $50,000 is slated to move the Centralized Drug Testing Unit from its building on Madison Avenue to the early voting office at 13th and Washington Streets.
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