City departments want more than they can in capital improvement budget

City departments make case to get piece of capital improvement budget

After months of revisions, the city of La Crosse’s capital improvement budget of more than $121 million is getting closer to becoming a reality. A large portion of projects in the budget are paid for, at least partially, through grants, federal or state grants, and other public financing methods.

One of the aspects that is still being worked on is how much money each city department will get. City departments from parks and recreation to public works are looking for their piece of capital improvement budget pie.

“The budget has been whittled down from a big number to a smaller big number, and it has to continually go down,” said Steve Carlyon, the director of La Crosse parks, recreation and forestry.

About eight city departments are asking for a total of roughly $6 million dollars. The city only has about half of that to spare.

“Obviously, the city has limited resources,” said Dale Hexom, the director of La Crosse public works.

The public works department is requesting more than $650,000 to help fix some of La Crosse’s 220 miles of streets.

“If we can do four miles a year, that means out of our 220, streets it’s going to take us 55 years to replace all of the city’s streets,” Hexom said.

Each La Crosse street is rated on a scale from one to 10, 10 meaning brand new. Officials said 50 miles of streets are rated as a four or below.

“When it gets down to 2 and 3 you basically got no street left, you got kind of a rubble gravel road,” Hexom said.

The La Crosse Fire department also wants a piece. They are asking for more than $1 million a portion of which would pay for new generators.

“When we had the power outage the other week, we had to plug in our manual generator and try to run an emergency operation off of a little power generator,” said La Crosse Fire Chief Gregg Cleveland.

A little more than $900,000 to fund various parks and recs projects includes an update to Riverside Park. Officials are hopeful most of their plan gets approval, but if they don’t officials said the projects won’t be completely scrapped.

“If they don’t get funded, they just get moved and then we fight the battle again next year,” Carlyon said.

The La Crosse Plan Commission held a public hearing on the capital improvement budget. The meeting was meant to help give the public a way to say what they wanted out of the budget.

City Council will adopt the capital improvement budget as part of the city’s 2016 budget in November.