The Cary Town Council may approve a slightly different fiscal year 2016-17 budget than was presented earlier this month after council members showed an interest in expediting funding for several parks.
The Town Council instructed staff at a work session Tuesday, May 24, to return with options for funding a restroom at MacDonald Woods Park and a master plan for future phases of Downtown Park.
Some council members also are interested in finding funding for the Cameron Pond Neighborhood Park in the next few years.
For fiscal year 2016-17, Interim Town Manager Mike Bajorek is recommending a $319.2 million budget, with $227.8 million allocated for operations and $91.4 million for capital improvements.
On Tuesday, the Town Council had little feedback to offer on the operations side of the budget but more on the capital improvements budget and the 10-year capital improvements plan. Council members also discussed projects for a potential bond referendum that would be on the November 2018 ballot.
Parks and recreation
Karl Knapp, the town’s budget director, said many of the projects on the 10-year capital improvements plan had been approved as part of previous CIPs, but some changes are recommended this year.
“The (parks and recreation) department took a look at what are the most pressing needs,” Knapp said. “There have been some rearrangements. Some projects moved out a little bit. Others taken off the table in order to make room for some improvements and longer-term planning for facilities.”
One significant recommendation is to transfer funding planned for Cameron Pond Neighborhood Park to Morris Branch Park, both in the northwest part of town.
The CIP approved last year included the $6.15 million Cameron Pond Neighborhood Park with $100,000 recommended in fiscal year 2016-17 for design, as well as additional funding recommended in later years for construction. Funding for Morris Branch Park had not been planned.
But this year’s budget recommends that $100,000 instead be planned for Morris Branch Park, and the 10-year plan shows an additional $500,000 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $4 million for fiscal year 2019-20 to fund construction of the $4.6 million park. No funding is planned for the Cameron Pond Neighborhood Park.
The Town Council is not committed to funding the projects on the capital improvement plan beyond the annual budget under consideration.
Town staff said they believe Morris Branch Park would better serve the residents of northwest Cary and is less expensive. Doug McRainey, the town’s parks, recreation and cultural resources director, said it would serve about 11,000 residents within a one-mile radius.
“Every park we put in, we have got to get as much bang for our buck,” McRainey said. “We have got to make as much impact as possible.”
In about a year and a half, he said, a greenway would connect Cameron Pond to Mills Park, where the town is adding new amenities, including a picnic shelter.
While council members agreed with town staff’s reasoning, some, including council members Ed Yerha and Jennifer Robinson, said they’re concerned with residents’ expectations that Cameron Pond Neighborhood Park would be completed within the next few years.
Town staff said the Cameron Pond Neighborhood Park could be included in the possible 2018 bond referendum, or other planned projects could be postponed to find the money for it sooner.
“I would just be very careful of taking away another park,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “I can tell you where I live, I would love to see Tryon Park, and I don’t know if I’m going to see that in my lifetime.”
In addition, the future phases of Downtown Park and Mills Park could be included in a possible 2018 bond referendum.
Town Council directed staff to return with options to fund a $100,000 master plan for future phases of Downtown Park in fiscal year 2016-17 to kickstart the project, even if funds for its design or construction aren’t readily available.
“What I’d like to see is we master plan it, so that if and when we do a bond, that part is done and we can move to construction quicker,” councilman Don Frantz.
Councilman Jack Smith also brought up the need for a $300,000 restroom facility at MacDonald Woods Park.
“We only have one park in our system without a restroom, and that is MacDonald Woods,” he said.
Another project recommended in the next few years is the widening of Reedy Creek Road from Northeast Maynard Road to North Harrison Avenue. The CIP shows $7 million in remaining 2012 bond funding would be used in fiscal year 2018-19 to help pay for the $9.15 million project.
“To me it is not a priority, and it just got repaved so I’m dying to know why it’s a priority,” Weinbrecht said.
Town staff presented several other options for road projects that could be completed instead, including widening Chapel Hill Road to four lanes from North Academy Street to Reedy Creek and widening Holly Springs Road from Cary Parkway northward to either four lanes or six lanes.
“They’re all really important projects,” said Lori Cove, the town’s transportation and facilities director.
Since the widening of Reedy Creek Road would not be funded this year, council members plan to discuss later in the year if they want the Reedy Creek Road widening project or another road project.
In the meantime, the Town Council will hold its next budget work session on Monday, June 13. The budget likely will be adopted on Monday, June 27.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon