Projects carry daunting price tag

Durham capital improvements plan maps out spending for next 10 years

Staff WriterJune 1, 2007 

— The county's recently approved capital improvements plan is a whopper -- $901 million spread over 31 projects to be built over the next decade.

It's the sort of thing that has county officials counting pennies.

"It makes you become a little more creative," said Ellen Reckhow, chairwoman of the Durham Board of Commissioners. "It does lead you to think about ways to save money."

The plan, which is updated and approved every two years, maps out what the county will be paying for new facilities over the next 10 years. Much of that spending will occur sooner rather than later because two of the county's largest-ever projects, a courthouse and a human-services complex, are getting under way around the same time.

The projected cost of the new courthouse has risen dramatically over the past few years as the county has worked its way through land acquisition and now comes in at about $110 million. The human services complex, to be built on Main Street, is now expected to cost about $103 million.

These projects and others in the new capital plan contributed, in part, to County Manager Mike Ruffin's recent proposal to raise taxes 3.9 cents for each $100 of assessed value -- a 4.8 percent increase. County commissioners recently asked him to pare that proposal by a penny.

The plan would pay for projects across the county, including several new school facilities and some renovations, as well as improvements at Durham Technical Community College and the Museum of Life and Science. Projects are also contingent on voter approval in three referendums. The first will be this fall; the others are slated for 2009 and 2013.

Durham's County Stadium stands to receive $4.5 million, nearly twice what was originally anticipated, for a series of improvements. The county now wants to take $2 million from the budget for a new high school and move it to the stadium's renovation budget for improvements to the football field and the addition of an eight-lane track, which is two lanes larger than high schools require. That would allow the football team at the new high school to play at the stadium and would also allow the county to host track meets, Reckhow said.

"We really don't have any public facilities in Durham to host major track meets," she said.

Not all projects within the approved plan may come to fruition. One potential victim could be a $16.2 million Main Street parking deck.

"I'm hoping we can avoid it," Reckhow said. "I really want us to work on encouraging transit use and other things."

Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service