Parks, infrastructure, housing, planning: first look at the 2022-23 city budget

Traverse City commissioners received their first look Monday at the city’s proposed budget for the upcoming 2022-23 fiscal year, a document that outlines numerous proposed parks and infrastructure projects, water and energy investments. of its own, staffing additions – including a proposed second assistant city manager – and planning initiatives, including the development of a potential “urban campus” concept in response to Grand Traverse County’s announcement of its intention to consolidate county operations into two campuses.

City staff distributed the proposed $20.9 million general fund budget Monday to commissioners, who did not discuss it in detail but will do so during an in-depth overview and briefing. Q&A study next week. This will be followed by a public hearing on May 16, where residents can weigh in on the city’s spending priorities, with commissioners then voting to formally approve the budget on June 6.

In a budget summary, City Manager Marty Colburn noted that the city continues to experience the effects of the pandemic, ranging from a recent increase in staff illnesses to economic inflation to disruptions with contractors, materials and supply lines. But Traverse City is “financially in stable condition” despite these challenges, according to Colburn. With some deferred spending due to project delays and higher-than-expected revenues, the city has a “healthy surplus of funds” that Colburn says will “help us meet our significant need for future investments in our buildings, streets and parks, as well as working on city commission goals such as housing and green activities.

According to the city manager, the next fiscal year 2022-23 – which begins on July 1 – will include a “number of important projects such as investments in water and wastewater, reconstruction and maintenance of streets, bridges , Grandview Parkway US-31 improvements, park improvements. , and work with partners on projects such as watershed management along Kids Creek and housing issues with private developers, non-profit organizations and the use of city properties for new uses .

In terms of housing, which city commissioners have identified as a strategic priority, Colburn said “housing to transition out of homelessness is a specific area to address.” Staff are working with Safe Harbor and Goodwill on “building a facility to meet transitional housing needs,” according to Colburn, who said the project “will support the creation of a safe place to live while receiving services to help people regain their abilities to live and survive on their own.” Colburn said the city is working with local housing groups to provide housing vouchers to residents and is exploring opportunities with Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Grand Traverse County Land Bank Authority to develop more housing locally.

Parks, green energy, and infrastructure upgrades are also a big part of the budget. Colburn recommends using $200,000 of the $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds earmarked for the city to invest in expanding the city’s tree canopy, which will “will help mitigate flooding by absorbing millions of gallons of stormwater” and “will cool our thermal footprint in the urban area and work towards carbon sequestration. The city continues to invest in the purchase of electric vehicles for its fleet when available, explores the repurposing of city property to establish a solar farm, and identifies more locations for vehicle charging stations. electrical, according to Colburn.

Park improvements, including planned new restrooms in the quiet Brown Bridge area, increased snowmaking capacity and planning for future bike path expansion in Hickory Hills, and improvements to Boon, Ashton, Indian Woods and F&M. However, it is recommended that a planned park project be put on hold: While the Parks and Recreation Commissioners voted last fall to install two more volleyball courts in West End, Colburn said that the city had “very limited land” along West Bay and should have more extensive planning conversations before moving forward with using that space for additional courts.

The need for more planning is a recurring refrain in the 2022-23 budget. In addition to rewriting the city’s master plan, Colburn recommends surveying city properties and planning for a potential “urban campus” if needed in the future to house city services. The City and County of Grand Traverse currently share the government center on Boardman Avenue, with the county holding the controlling interest. Grand Traverse County has announced plans to eventually consolidate its operations into two campuses on Boardman Avenue and Lafranier Road. “With the county proceeding with the potential relocation of some government services, it is difficult at this time to fully understand the tax ramifications and impacts on city services and facilities,” Colburn wrote. Planning a potential city campus now will help the city prepare for different possibilities as the county moves forward, Colburn said, adding that the city needs to review all of its current agreements with the county and plan next steps in buildings where the two entities share operational space, such as the Senior Center and the Traverse City Fire Department Station on West Front Street.

Colburn’s budget also calls for the addition of several city employee positions next year, including a second deputy city manager and an engineer in the water and sewer department to help with the high number of projects. of water and sewage coming into the city pipeline. In addition to the reconstruction of Grandview Parkway – which will be discussed in more detail at the commission meeting on May 16 and may now be split into two phases in 2023 and 2024, depending on the city bridge work and delays of design/materials – the city is also preparing for the reconstruction of Jefferson and Madison streets this year. Because the redesign of East Front Street has been delayed and will likely be five years away, according to Colburn, $300,000 is budgeted to be split between the city and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to complete a “milled and filled” repair. . project on East Front Street between Grandview Parkway and Park Street to address deteriorating road conditions. Also on the DDA front, Colburn said continued downtown parking pressures amid public and private parking lot redevelopments mean that “top priority (should) be given to building the third parking lot downtown” planned for West Front Street.

Colburn concluded his budget summary by saying the 2022-23 plan is a “balanced approach to ensuring the continuity of essential government services such as clean water and sanitation, public safety, (and) better mobility methods. and safer with more sidewalks and pathways. for citizens. In addition to the city’s collaboration with the DDA, Traverse Connect and other economic development groups to help the business community “recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and strengthen partnerships that build a community of business and climate,” Colburn said “continued investment in our infrastructure and work on significant planning efforts will prepare our community to evolve into a world-class city. He added that “this includes working on the human mental and physical health needs of some of our most at-risk citizens”, as well as “to be creative in building more housing for the working community”.