Arvada Asks for Citizen Advice on Spending $70 Million for Major Projects


by John Kiljan

[updated August 23, 2014]

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Road widening, recreation, parks, urban development, sidewalks, municipal buildings, higher education facilities, public landscaping, traffic signals, bridge replacements, arts and humanities, open space — what’s most important to you? And what projects are most needed by the people who live in Arvada and pay its taxes?

Here’s your chance to volunteer to help the City make those spending decisions, but think twice before you do — there’s a lot of work involved.

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The City of Arvada is obligated by its Charter to spend 20% of the City sales tax it takes in on capital improvement projects (CIP’s). Typically CIP’s are projects (such as road widenings) that are expected to last ten years or more. But several years ago the City Council redefined the criteria to include projects that may only last for five years (such as roadway overlays). Add to this the monies available to the City after its current debt obligations are paid off, and the amount of money available for these long-lasting projects is expected to top $70 million over the next ten years.

Although that is less than a thousand dollars for each City resident, it’s still a lot of money for a city like Arvada. And that money should be spent wisely. It is the responsibility of the Arvada City Council — and no one else — to prioritize the possible public improvement projects in the CIP list. But that’s a daunting task for any Councilor and that’s why the City Council is now asking for help.

But there is more. The list of capital projects on the City’s wish list for the next ten years far exceeds the available $70 million. There is also a possibility the City may fund even more improvements through lease-buyback arrangements or by issuing straightforward municipal bonds. The City currently has a triple-A bond rating, which means it can borrow money now to build projects that might otherwise have to be put off for decades.

And it can borrow money needed to do that at some pretty low interest rates and without having to increase taxes. This committee may be asked to provide input on those borrowing options as well.

So what projects do you think should come first? This isn’t a fill-out-an-index-card-at-the-end-of-a-one-hour-public-meeting request for input. It involves a lot more.

Instead, participants will be asked to take almost the same amount of time and effort as the City Council members themselves would take to prioritize the list of possible CIP projects now in front of them in their ten-year plan. Participating will take a lot of time and study and showing up for workshops to learn how a city like Arvada works and what’s important to the City’s well being — before even beginning to make recommendations.

Participating will be a lot like going back to school again, except you won’t have to pay tuition and you will probably have the opportunity to debate those who have opposing views on what’s best for Arvada.

The City has formed a CIP committee in the past. The last time was in 2007. I was told that there were 75 applicants at that time. Only 25 volunteers were supposed to be selected the last time, but the interest was strong enough that 33 people were chosen to form a rather large and unwieldy working group. This time only about 21 people are expected to be selected, but their meetings are supposed to be posted as open meetings and their work is to be available for all to review. And public comment periods are expected during their meetings.

If you are interested in contributing your talents and skills to this process, here is the City of Arvada’s official web posting for the volunteer solicitation that has links to the forms needed to apply:

http://arvada.org/about-arvada/seeking-applicants-for-citizens-capital-improvement-plan-committee/

The applications are due by Friday, August 15th, at 5:00 pm.

Update:  The application deadline has been extended to September 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm.  For more information go to

http://arvada.org/about-arvada/seeking-applicants-for-citizens-capital-improvement-plan-committee/

So what does it pay for all this time and effort? Well, if the committee members behave, they will probably get fed while they miss their dinner hours at home. But the real payoff will be in helping see a city operating as efficiently as it can and with as much informed public input into what its funding priorities should be as it can handle. And, if it works anything like the last 2007 CIP advisory group did, I can promise participants they will learn a lot about a how the City of Arvada works.

Central Ralston Road sidewalk

Central Ralston Road sidewalk

Will the proposals made by the committee be adopted by the Council? Not necessarily. The Council may reject the committee’s recommendations in part or entirely. Funding priorities are the Council’s responsibility. The picture here is of a sidewalk segment on Ralston Road that was given a top priority by the last CIP committee. It still hasn’t been upgraded in the six years since that recommendation was made.

But the Council is taking this effort pretty seriously. They also expect to invest a lot of City Staff time in working with the committee’s members. That slows down other City functions. Still, the Council and the City Staff itself seem to think that investment in time and resources will be worth it.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
In addition to the Arvada.org link shown above, you may follow our online posts.

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

Our main website is at RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. Hey, it’s not us. It’s Facebook that insists on spelling Livable that way.

CLRC
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

Wednesday 6 August 2014

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