County’s crystal ball fills with projects

Commissioners get outline of 2013-2017 capital improvement plan

The Washington County Board of Commissioners took a look at the future Tuesday. They learned it will be expensive.

County officials spent an hour-long workshop outlining the county’s 2013-2017 Capital Improvement Plan. The plan is posted on the county’s website for a six-week public comment period before the board holds a December public hearing on the proposal.

Highlights of the plan include several information technology projects and numerous public works projects that include a study of the Lake Elmo Park Reserve swim pond, repairs to several county buildings, upgrading the Government Center heating and cooling plant and numerous road projects, including the St. Croix River Crossing bridge.

County budget analyst Melinda Kirk said the plan’s first year matches the county’s 2013 budget, includes projects considered viable, acknowledges that funding sources change and has the potential for projects to change from year to year or between CIP plans.

Although a variety of funds are used to pay for CIP projects, Kirk said a future bond issue would help fund Public Works facility improvements, county highway projects, regional library expansion and other projects based on funding.

“We don’t have a formal bonding proposal yet,” she said. “The next potential bond sale is 2015.”

County Engineer Wayne Sandburg said called the CIP the Public Work’s division “work plan” established by the County Board. Highlights of Sandburg’s presentation included:

A new maintenance building and improved entrance at Big Marine Park Reserve. The current building is a pole barn with no running water or restrooms that the county inherited when it bought land for what has become the county’s second-busiest park, Sandburg said.

“Big Marine Park is one of our most popular parks,” he said.

Because the park is so popular, Sandburg said the county plans to put a center left-turn lane on CSAH 15 at the park entrance.

“We have a lot of boat traffic because we have a boat launch in Big Marine,” he said.

Roof repairs in 2014 through 2017 at the Woodbury Service Center and Washington County Library Wildwood branch and tuck-pointing and waterproofing on the northern and southern exteriors of the Government Center.

“This is going to be standard maintenance,” Sandburg said.

Upgrading the Government Center heating and cooling systems. Sandburg said county officials will look at energy-saving options that include geo-thermal and solar systems.

Improvements to the county’s aging satellite Public Works facilities. Sandburg said the 30- to 50-year-old structures are not energy efficient and do not meet the Americans With Disabilities law.

“This will be a major component of the 2015 bond issue,” he said.

A series of 2014 transportation projects that include improving 10th Street (CSAH 10) from Interstate 694 to Century Avenue; closing sidewalk gaps on CSAH 5 from Croixwood to McKusick; an $80,000 drainage study in Lake Elmo Village, and the new St. Croix River Bridge.

Sandburg told commissioners that although the bridge cost has be criticized, the county’s cost is about $75,000.

“For a $700 million project, $75,000 is a good deal for us,” he said.

The CIP also includes information technology projects that IT Director Myjke (CQ) Nelson said will find the county spending money up front to cut future costs.
“We’re going to spend more time on IT to reduce expenses for the county,” he said.

IT projects in the CIP include implementing a Human Resources information system, virtual desktop infrastructure, a fiber-optic ring and computer servers and storage systems.

Nelson said the county’s biggest IT challenge is keeping up with improved technology.

“One thing we need to plan for . . . is five to seven years down the road, we’ll have to replace things,” he said.

He added that IT infrastructure improvements occur in “bursts” of three- to four-year cycles.

“Most of these infrastructure things we’ll have to continue. It’s not one-and-done,” he said.