Prince William County's capital planning process has been a story of defeat and delay -- roads and parks never built, new libraries never funded, countless other projects put off until another day.

So residents may want to take the $471 million in "capital improvements needs" unveiled by County Executive Robert S. Noe Jr. last week with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, Noe's document is important for Prince William residents because it is a comprehensive listing of the projects the county could build during the next five years if money is approved.

Leading the measures in Noe's plan is a proposal for $85.86 million in projects to be placed before voters in a fall referendum. Scheduling a referendum requires a vote of the Board of County Supervisors, as does allocating money for the other projects in Noe's needs list, which next month will be melded with the Prince William school system's $220 million building proposals into a single capital plan.

Among the items Noe suggested be placed on the ballot this fall:$22 million toward construction of the proposed Prince William Parkway, a road that would snake from Davis Ford Road near Dale City to a new interchange at Horner Road and I-95. $20.6 million to design and purchase land for the widening of Davis Ford Road between Hoadly and Liberia roads. $12.6 million for improvements to Rte. 234, including a bypass around Manassas that county officials have described as critical to Prince William's economic development efforts. $8.65 million for a training facility for the police and fire departments. $9.58 million for two regional libraries: the Davis Ford library in eastern Prince William and the Bull Run library near Manassas. $9.43 million for a recreation center in eastern Prince William.

County planning director John Schofield said the county may be partially reimbursed for the Rte. 234 bypass and the Prince William Parkway from a tax that would be placed on developers who would profit from owning land near the roads.

Noe also called for bond referendums to pay for roads and other facilities in 1991 and 1993.

In addition to projects paid for through the issuance of bonds, Noe's plan calls for several projects to be built using funds from other sources, including the county's annual operating budget. Among the items proposed for funding in fiscal 1989: $7.16 million to renovate the former Saunders Middle School along the Rte. 1 corridor near Woodbridge into the Eastern Services Center, which will house county offices. County officials said they plan to borrow money for the project this year, and repay it under a "lease-purchase" arrangement. $560,000 to continue construction of a drainage project along Flat Branch near Manassas, where repeated flooding has been a source of bitter controversy. $460,000 for design work on a proposed expansion of Prince William-Manassas regional jail. $325,000 for improvements at high school athletic fields. $280,000 for design work on a proposed expansion of the Prince William judicial center in Manassas. $300,000 for design work on a new landfill to bury construction debris in eastern Prince William. $100,000 for improvements to the county police department's Gar-Field substation in eastern Prince William. $50,000 for a group home for delinquent girls.