The City of Boulder has its first-ever Capital Improvements Plan, a “big picture” document to guide City leaders in prioritizing and funding various projects for the next decade.
In the absence of a CIP, the City has made prior capital improvements through the annual operating budgets of its various departments and through acquiring grant funding.
The Boulder City Council voted unanimously to adopt the CIP at its Nov. 18 meeting.
The CIP, developed for the city by Morrison-Maierle of Helena, “assesses the City’s infrastructure to identify and prioritize improvement projects and provide a budgeting tool for the City to address those improvements,” according to the document. “The CIP may be used as a guiding document to help the City focus their resources on high priority projects and to help the City secure funding for those projects.”
The stated benefits of developing a CIP and regularly updating it include “ensuring financial stability … [by] helping to create a long-term financial plan to meet the City’s capital improvement goals,” “identifying where improvements will be needed over time, rather than waiting for a crisis to occur before taking action,” and “identifying financing alternatives that can provide grants or low interest loans for capital improvements.”
Estimated project costs are included and account for inflation.
High-priority needs identified in the CIP include:
Boulder Police Department: SUV and miscellaneous equipment including in-car computers, e-ticket printer and firearms.
Boulder Volunteer Fire Department: Turnout gear (boots, coats, etc.), new building (in conjunction with Boulder Ambulance Service).
Boulder Ambulance Service: Power cots, vital signs monitors, ambulance units, new building (in conjunction with Boulder Volunteer Fire Department).
Public Works Department: Plow truck with sander, road and street rehabilitation, well pumps, fire hydrants, sewer collection upgrades, mapping existing wastewater collection system, new storm sewer system.
Boulder City Administration: Expanding City Hall, mapping cemetery with sonar.
The CIP was developed with a 10-year planning period in mind and incorporating input from the City Council; City Planning Board; City department heads; the Boulder Area Chamber of Commerce; the Boulder Area Transition Advisory Committee; and city residents who attended public meetings on Aug. 5 and Oct. 7 and, in between, indicated their priorities on two posters displayed in City Hall.
Past planning documents were also consulted, including a 2012 Preliminary Engineering Report for the City’s wastewater collection and treatment system and the Growth Policy and Downtown Master Plan of 2018.
The CIP serves as an inventory and evaluation of City-owned and maintained public facilities including those used for health and safety, public works, recreation and city administration.
A minimum estimated project cost of $5,000 was set as a baseline for inclusion in the CIP. Projects estimated to cost less were recommended to be handled in the various departments’ annual budgets.
In some instances, such as with the Boulder Police Department’s pressing needs, numerous miscellaneous items that might individually cost less than $5,000 were combined because “the annual funds required to meet the department’s goals are substantial.”
Some high-priority items already have been budgeted for and are underway in various stages, such as designing a Boulder River trails system and upgrading playground equipment, both of which fall under the purview of the Public Works Department. And, according to the CIP, the City already has received a quote of $20,000 for mapping the cemetery using sonar and has budgeted an initial $8,200 for the project.
Other high-priority items have yet to be planned for, and are proposed for completion following one of three schedules: annual, near-term (within one to five years) and long-term (within five to 10 years).
Some of the needs of Boulder Ambulance Service are noted in the CIP as particularly pressing, with a facility that does not provide necessary water or sewer service, additional storage or an area for training and conference purposes.
Replacing the service’s existing cots with power cots and replacing both ambulance units are needs considered “critical.”
“Ambulance volunteers have growing safety concerns regarding the manual cots due to the high risk of personal injury associated with moving large persons using manual cots,” the CIP states. “Power cots would absorb the strain on the volunteers from manual cots and protect volunteers from personal injury.”
In addition, maintaining the service’s two ambulance units is becoming costly due to their high mileage and age.
The Boulder Volunteer Fire Department’s facility similarly “is generally described as under equipped for the current needs of the Volunteer Fire Department,” and the CIP outlines the possibility of constructing a new facility that would house both it and Boulder Ambulance Service.
Formal discussions about building such a facility have not begun, but both departments have informally expressed an interest in pursuing a combined-use facility at an as yet undetermined location.
In addition, if the City decides to move ahead with building such a new facility, “new accommodations for the Police Department may be incorporated as well,” the CIP states.
Meanwhile, the CIP acknowledges that upgrading Boulder Ambulance Service’s existing facility “will likely be necessary before the City has the opportunity to pursue the new emergency services facility and should remain priorities until a new facility is available.”
The high-, medium- and low-priority items are outlined in a schedule that includes potential ways of funding each item. Most every one includes using some amount of budgeted City funds, and most include one or more grant opportunities.
While grants vary in their application requirements, the CIP points out a similarity that many exhibit: applications are typically considered more favorable if the applicant has a CIP and if the CIP includes the project for which funding is sought.
A CIP “[demonstrates] to bond underwriters that the local government is a reduced financial risk because it has methodically thought through its public facility needs,” the CIP states.
Some less pressing items identified in the CIP offer a glimpse into where City leaders see potential opportunity. One such project would replace the ditch running just south of City Hall with a culvert and re-establish East 1st Avenue. Another project proposes constructing a water bottling plant or similar enterprise at the currently offline City well No. 4 “or leasing it to a private entity for a water bottling plant to provide a source of income to the City.”
In addition, the CIP indicates that the City “is pursuing discussions” with the Montana Department of Transportation to remove the Main Street medians in response to residents’ safety concerns. “The City would like to, at the very least, remove the landscaping and raised garden beds and level off below the garden beds with fill material,” the CIP states.
Proposed projects for Boulder Cemetery include installing a parking area and a gazebo in the northeast corner and building a crematorium wall for the interment of cremated remains.
Stressing that the City Council hasn’t yet specifically discussed how to proceed following adoption of the CIP, Council Chair Drew Dawson said in an email that he envisioned its implementation would be “addressed specifically during the next budgeting cycle.”
“The Council, in coordination with the City Clerk and Department Heads, would need to decide how much funding to allocate to the CIP,” he wrote.
In addition, Dawson stated that city government and economic development entities such as the Jefferson Local Development Corporation “need to remain vigilant about funding opportunities to implement CIP priorities.”
“Of course, we also need to be realistic about the resources available to apply for funding,” he wrote.