City identifies $290 million in new project needs

A year after the City Council passed an $816 million capital spending program, the city of Charlotte has identified nearly $291 million in new projects that council members could consider.

City Manager Ron Carlee said Wednesday the list was “very preliminary,” and it’s unclear how the city would pay for some or all of the projects.

“I’m trying to compile a list of unmet needs which have been pent up during the recession,” Carlee said.

Council members were scheduled to discuss the items at Wednesday’s budget meeting, but ran out of time.

A year ago, the City Council passed a 7.25 percent property tax increase to pay for the capital spending program, which will build roads, bridges, sidewalks, affordable housing and police and fire stations throughout the city.

During the budget process so far, Carlee has said he doesn’t envision that the city will need to raise the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

He said Wednesday that it would be “purely speculative” to determine how the city could pay for the projects. He said he anticipates the city will enter a period of strong economic growth, and tax revenues from new construction could help pay for some or all of the projects.

The city could also recommend raising taxes to fund the investments.

In its presentation, the city said it only has just under $25 million of unallocated reserves and debt capacity.

The projects include:

• $8 million to partner with the Foundation for the Carolinas for a rental assistance program for veterans and their families.

• $37.5 million for “unique neighborhood mobility and safety needs.”

• $38 million for a number of capital projects, including money for new fire stations; a new police station; and more money to plant trees.

The city said two new fire stations for Hidden Valley and Interstate 77 and Clanton Road would cost more than $15 million. A study for improving the city’s zoning ordinances would cost $1.08 million and building a new operations facility for the Charlotte Department of Transportation would cost $5 million.

• $36 million for improvements to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. They include replacing the carpet and furniture, the HVAC system and spending $20.6 million to reconfigure the space on all floors of the building.

• $65 million for technology improvements throughout city departments.

• $51 million to renovate Bojangles’ Coliseum and $44.4 million to renovate Time Warner Cable Arena. Both are owned by the city.

City budget director Randy Harrington said the city is considering making improvements to the arena such as new furniture, technology and systems that operate the building.

Bojangles’, built in 1955, was supposed to be renovated as part of a city plan to remake the arena into a home for amateur sports. The developer who is interested in building a hotel and gym on the site didn’t include Bojangles’ in its plans.

Time Warner Cable Arena, which opened in 2005, is operated by the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport also made a presentation at Wednesday’s budget meeting.

The airport plans to spend more than $32 million renovating concourses A, B and C as well as the main atrium where all concourses meet.

“Our airline partners agree our concourses need a little refresh,” said Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle.

Cagle said the airport will replace wall and ceiling panels, furniture and carpet.

The airport also plans to shift about 150 temporary workers to full time, Cagle said.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities also discussed its budget Wednesday. The utility said it may need a rate increase for the upcoming year, but it didn’t make a firm proposal.