Champaign city council discusses parking, capital improvements, budget requests

The Champaign City Council met on Tuesday to discuss the Capital Improvements Plan, parking staffing and supplemental budget requests.

The Capital Improvement Plan is a ten-year plan that is updated annually to include new maintenance projects, prioritize projects and estimate costs.

According to the Capital Improvement Review Team, approximately $33 million is budget for next year. The programs funding will be reduced by about $2 million each year over the next four years in order to keep on track with the city’s reduced budget.

Several roadway projects on South Prospect Avenue, Curtis Road and Green Street were proposed to the Council, but storm sewers were the main priority.

“We’ve had so many citizens concerned about storm water in the past week,” said Deborah Feinen, council member.

The city has had a history of trouble with flooding. In some areas the water would not move away and in others, it would move away quickly, only to get pooled into one area, said Bruce Knight, FAICP planning director.

“Part of that is our geography, or lack there of,” Knight added

Despite the recent heavy rainfall, the city’s response has been better than past years.

“The storm sewers have never worked better in some parts of town,” Knight said. “We’re working through it, but it is hugely expensive.”

With projects like these require planning over long periods of time in order to accomplish them and fund them.

“All of these [Capital Improvements Plan projects], I don’t think the public is well aware of planning. The funding is just so astronomical at times,” said Karen Foster, council member.

While the Council does see the projects under the Capital Improvements Plan as a priority, it is not the case with parking staff.

Parking Programs proposed the addition of a maintenance worker position to assist with the meter maintenance and collection, which has increased over the past year.

In 2008, rates and hours were increased for downtown parking. As a result, maintenance workers were required to work longer hours.

Since the staff had to dedicate more time towards collections, their regular maintenance activities were often neglected, said Elizabeth Hannan, administrative services manager.

“We feel this is not a good thing and that it has a negative impact on the look of downtown,” Hannan said.

The position salary would be approximately $62,000 with the added cost of $15,000 for a vehicle, Hannan added.

The Council was not receptive to this proposal however.

“At this point it’s pretty unusual to be looking at staffing changes other than eliminating positions,” said Steve Carter, city manager.

The Council voted to approve an amended version of the proposal in which the additional duties would be covered by part-time employees or eliminated by reducing collection hours.

In the meeting the Council also address supplement budget requests, a list of small items that are posed as additions to the budget. Most of these additions are limited to cost increases that are necessary to maintain service levels and contractual agreements.