Good news and not-so-good news. First, the good: the overall City of Oneonta money situation for the fiscal year and for the near-term future is generally positive. Not-so-good: even so, there’s not enough money in the city kitty to do all the community development projects city leaders have on their wish list to do or have in the works by the second half of 2020. Thus, the need to prioritize the list and add anything new that might have surfaced since the last go-round. That was the bottom line of city manager Ed Lowe’s mid-year and mid-term budget and projects report.
“Since we know we can’t do everything on this list, we need guidance from the mayor and the council as to what their priorities are so we can start getting plans in place on what projects to focus on moving forward,” he said. Budget highlights
• REVENUES – Overall revenues for the fiscal year are $924,000 above projections, but revenues for the second half-year will be less, since most license revenue is already in.
• EXPENDITURES – Total expenditures are about $51,000 over budget to date, but that’s not as bad as it sounds, Lowe said. Storms and cleanup aftermath and unscheduled repairs account for a chunk of that, and seasonal expense trends that decline after mid-year account for some as well. Departmental budgets are expected to generally move back into line by end of year. Departmental status:
Fire: over budget $10,000; pending capital request for $48,000.
Park and Rec: Over budget $30,000; capital spent: $21,711
Police: under budget $4,000; capital spent: $3,827/month for leased vehicles.
Street: over budget $20,000; capital spent: $54,000 on mini-excavator.
Library: under budget $5,000.
• CAPITAL AVAILABLE FOR COMMUNITY PROJECTS: Approximately $1.2 million. Project highlights (not in final priority order)
• Wallace State academic building downtown: complete, under budget, and ready for summer classes.
• New Department of Human Resources project on Lemley drive: site provision and road construction joint project with Blount County Commission. Cost estimate: up to $50,000. Estimated completion: mid-summer, 2019.
• Wallace State Applied Technology Center expansion – 5,000 sq. ft. at existing site on Ala 75. Cost estimate: $225,000. Estimated completion: August, 2019.
• Blount County Economic Development Council request for building: initial estimate on multi-use building was far above expectations due to upward economic pressures on construction activity. Project continues under active consideration for future implementation.
• Community Development building – reconditioned downtown building at 110 1st Avenue to provide headquarters and identity for Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce, Oneonta Business Association, and community development function generally; also to serve as operations center for major downtown events like Covered Bridge Festival. Situated directly across 1st Avenue from planned City Center Park/amphitheater/ rustic pavilion development. Cost estimate: $150,000 – $175,000. Estimated completion: end of year 2019.
• City Center Park/amphitheater/ rustic pavilion – Complex to be located in the area created by demolition of the Fendley Furniture building and property immediately contiguous to the north and east, including Railroad Avenue, which will be closed and incorporated into the park. Cost estimate: $75,000 + or –. Estimated completion: demolition and initial construction to begin this summer, with completion expected in the spring or summer of 2020, with favorable weather.
• Additional parking for Wallace State academic building – Will include lot at the corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street, as well as “sawtooth” parking along 1st Street behind the library. No cost estimate. Estimated completion: this summer.
• Park and Recreation project for Oneonta Recreation Park – Develop full-size soccer/flag football field, adding splash pad and pool upgrade; will necessitate reconfiguration of present layout of sports fields and probably require staged implementation over roughly two years. Cost estimate: dependent on master plan and subsequent adjustments as necessary for affordability. Estimated completion: master plan and first steps this summer, completion of first stage next year with final completion anticipated in the 2021 time frame.
• Railroad Market and Exhibit – Development project for the opposite end of 1st Avenue from the amphitheater complex. Railroad-themed, covered, open-air farmers market building will occupy the grassy island currently extending from the public restroom building to the produce market, including the gazebo. Possibly other exhibits recapitulating Oneonta’s railroad era in an adjoining area. Cost estimate: $150,000. Estimated completion: 2020.
• Agribusiness Center – Awaiting strategic use study, due soon.
• 1st Avenue and B Street extension paving – Estimated completion: this summer/fall.
• Park and Ride lot – Recent addition to projects list. Anticipated location is parking lots along Bluebell Street between Sellers Avenue and Tulip Avenue across from the former Wrangler plant. Cost estimate: $5,000. Estimated completion: this summer.
• Storm shelter – Recent addition to projects list. High cost ($100,000) relative to limited number of people served (100) relegates this project to the future consideration category.
Commenting on the major lifestyle and entertainment project represented by the amphitheater, pavilion and City Center Park, Lowe waxed philosophical: “It’s going to make a big difference in the way things look in that part of town obviously, and it’ll have a big impact.
“But it’s also going to have a big impact on how that neighborhood and the community itself functions. It’s going to open up the area to all kinds of things we don’t have a place for now: the whole range of Wallace State’s performing arts groups – theater, bands, singers, dance groups, and so on. Gospel music, fiddling conventions, and more. It’s hard for people not to want to be associated with events and excitement like that,” he said.