Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks tapped the brakes on design work for a recreation center and the installation of long-delayed informational signs Tuesday because of what he described as “enormous challenges” that the city faces on infrastructure improvements.
The $1.4 million design for the proposed $20 million renovation of the Chinquapin Park Recreation Center’s pool and a $25,000 series of “way-finding” signs planned to direct visitors to interesting local sites are on hold, Jinks told the City Council, because the cost of other major capital improvements are becoming clear and he wants the city to set priorities before any money is committed.
The city’s share of the escalating cost of Metro will increase by $90 million over the next 10 years, Jinks said he learned this past weekend. Schools need an additional $200 million over the same period, the local schools chief recently warned. In addition, repairs to existing city facilities may add $80 million to $239 million to the $85 million already budgeted, depending on how extensive the renovations are, the council learned Tuesday.
Jinks said he will give the council his advice on how to prioritize its capital spending needs in February, when he typically presents his budget recommendations. Since Alexandria is one of the few cities in the country that has a 10-year capital improvement budget, the city has some flexibility in planning. But by local measures, the costs of paying for infrastructure repairs are steep, he said.
Meanwhile, $150 million to $200 million will be needed over the next 15 years for storm and sanitary sewer projects that the city is required to take on to stop the overflow of sewage into the Potomac River virtually every time it rains. Each local household will pay an additional $120 to $180 per year on their sewer bills to help cover that cost. The city plans to ask the state to cover some of the cost, as it has for Lynchburg and Richmond, but that request will not be made until 2018.
The council, which had met with four of the legislators who represent Alexandria in the General Assembly earlier Tuesday evening, said they plan to seek money to address all four of the sewer outfalls, and not just the three they are required to fix under the Clean Water Act. The fourth, which empties into Oronoco Bay at the foot of Pendleton Street, spills about 11 million gallons of raw sewage into the river each year.