Riverside council OKs $780M capital improvement plan

Following 2 1/2 hours of public debate last Tuesday, the Riverside City Council approved initial plans for an aggressive, $780 million capital improvement plan.

The citywide plan, designed to complete 20 – 30 years worth of municipal facilities and infrastructure projects in as little as 5 years, includes $384 million in mostly “underground” projects — electrical, water, sewers — and $398 million in “above ground” projects — parks, libraries, transportation, cultural and municipal facilities. (See: previous post for more details.)

According to reports, a number of those attending the public hearing indeed applauded the plan, if not the idea in general. Many spoke in favor, while some did express concern over the quick timeline and financial aspects. Regardless, most seemed to agree Riverside has gotten behind schedule recently with regards to most aspects of the project list.

City officials say they’re confident the plan can be completed:

The city is in strong financial shape, it owes very little money compared to its overall budget, the timing is good for issuing bonds to pay for projects and, in the unlikely event the financing doesn’t work out as planned, projects can always be reevaluated and scaled back, they said.

…County Treasurer Paul McDonnell, who is not involved in the city initiative, said it did not appear to include overly rosy revenue projections.

“It looks like a solid plan,” McDonnell said.

…It’s a good time to sell bonds because interest rates are low and demand from investors is strong, said Matt Fabian, a municipal analyst at Municipal Market Advisors, a research company based in Concord, Mass.

“They’re going to get a really good price,” Fabian said.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – October 5, 2006

According to city officials, nearly half of the money is already available with the remainder to be funded through an assortment of funding sources and mechanisms. Thus far, the city says the only direct financial impact to residents will be a possible $30 annual property tax assessment — which residents will have an opportunity to vote on within the next 2 years — to help pay for ongoing maintenance for a number of projects once completed. Considering the breadth of projects, we feel the proposed assessment is more than reasonable.

Again, as mentioned in our previous entry, we like the plan and even more so, its quick timeline. However, with such a forward-thinking plan, we would still like for the city to address what we feel is a major missing element, particularly for this city of 300,000 and this region of nearly 4 million: a multipurpose events/sports arena.

Arena or not, we support this “renaissance” plan.

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