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Youngsville eyes 'big projects' budget

YOUNGSVILLE -- Town Administrator Phil Cordeiro presented commissioners with an outline of his 2020-21 budget proposal that keeps the tax rate neutral, calls for about $1 million in renovations and new construction, and raises some fees.

The most ambitious aspect of the budget -- a preview of which was given to commissioners during a special called March 19 meeting -- are plans to renovate the town's administrative complex, which hosts town hall staff, the police department and public works operations.

Youngsville moved into its new administration building in the spring of 2017, leaving behind dilapidated buildings on Cross Street that they had called home for decades.

The new building on U.S. 1-A was renovated to accommodate all three departments, however, the back half of what was once a manufacturing facility was essentially left unchanged.

Renovating the back half of the administrative building, Cordeiro said, would allow Youngsville to host its town meetings there, while also adding conference space for training, work space for additional parks and recreation staff and/or finance staff.

"As the town continues to grow, this will be an excellent space to use for those employees," Cordeiro said.

Renovation of the town's administrative building works hand in hand with plans to build a new public works building on town-owned property on S. College Street. Much of the town's public works equipment is maintained in a garage behind the old town hall, but once the town sold that property, they have until February 2021 to relocate that equipment.

The proposed new public works building will have space to store that equipment, plus provide space for a fundamental change in public works operations. Not only will public works staff be relocated there, but plans for the building include three vehicle maintenance bays.

"We are converting the public works operator position to a fleet mechanic public works operator," Cordeiro said. "That person will handle basic automotive maintenance, trouble shooting and diagnostic skills.

"The person is expected to have ASE certification with the intention of no longer having to pay to do basic maintenance on town fleet vehicles, like oil changes, tire rotation, things of that nature, and be able to do that inhouse and save money. It's expected to pay for the position and more, long term."

Commissioner Cat Redd wondered if fleet work required three maintenance bays. Cordeiro said it's more fiscally responsible to plan the building with three bays now, rather than a single bay and adding on later.

A savings, he said, could be realized because of lower borrowing rates, now. Also, the town might only purchase lifts and equipment for one bay now, and do the rest when appropriate.

Cordeiro answered a query by Commissioner Terry Hedlund, giving commissioners an even better idea of the potential savings.

The town spends about $60,000 to $75,000 a year to maintain all its vehicles, Cordeiro said.

"... I think we could probably cut that down to $15,000 to $20,000, which would really be emergency type stuff or more involved stuff, like replacing transmissions or alternators that our mechanic might not be able to do right away, although I would highly encourage that person to continue technical training to obtain those skills and purchase the equipment necessary to do that work if and when it makes sense."

All told, Cordeiro said, he anticipates the work on the town administrative building and construction of a new public works building would cost about $1 million.

In January, the town agreed to sell its old town hall and police department properties for $179,000. That money, Cordeiro said, would be used to help pay for the renovation and construction.

During the board's March 19 meeting, commissioners took three actions to move the two projects along.

First, the board agreed to exempt procurement of the site work for the project from the request for proposal process. That requirement can be waived if it's an emergent matter, according the statute that governs it.

"We're losing the use of that [public works] garage in February," Cordeiro said. "I anticipate having that [new building] completed no later than that."

Next, the board directed Cordeiro to execute a contract with Raleigh-based The Site Group to perform the site work for less than $35,000.

Finally, the town directed Cordeiro to execute a contract with Raleigh-based Integrated Design for the more comprehensive architecture and engineering services.

That work is expected to cost about $130,000 and is not exempt from the public procurement process.

The town will have to go through the public Request for Qualification process. The decision to direct Cordeiro to execute a contract, officials said, was an attempt to streamline the project if Integrated Design -- which Cordeiro has confidence in -- secures the winning bid.

If another firm proves the winner, the town would have to take another action to allow Cordeiro to move forward with that firm.

"We'll use the RFQ process to choose the firm to do the work, whether that's Integrated or not, we'll choose the most qualified firm," Cordeiro said.

• Beyond the capital improvement projects outlined in the budget, the preview given to commissioners on March 19 included an outline of what Cordeiro expected to present to the town in terms of its 2020-21 spending plan.

Even with those capital projects, Cordeiro said, the town's tax rate is slated to remain the same at 65.5 cents per $100 of valuation.

The vehicle and solid waste fees, which were both increased this past fiscal year, will be unchanged, he said.

However, the in-town and out-of-town community house rental fees will double, from $100 to $200 and $125 to $300, respectively.

That's still a competitive rate, officials said. And, Cordeiro said even if it means less people using the facility, the revenue generated should remain the same -- with less wear and tear on the building.

The budget also includes fee hikes for permits to dig in streets, from $25 to $100 -- essentially to help cover the costs of utility work, and the budget includes a special event/amplified sound permit fee of $50. Previously, there was no cost.

• The budget also includes funds to cover changes called upon by the pay and classification study, essentially pay improvements for employees;

• Renovations to the Youngsville Community House kitchen;

• Improvements to Luddy Park, including lights for the basketball court.

The budget does not include:

• A leaf truck, a street sweeper and three new police vehicles.

• It also does not include a new recreation center.

That center, is becoming more and more of a necessity, though, said Mayor Fonzie Flowers. "We don't have a lot of gym space," said Flowers, noting that the town has partnered with Faith Baptist Church to use their gym courts for programs and the court at Youngsville Elementary is showing signs of age.

"At some point," he said, "we definitely need to have a recreation center."

Finally, while the budget does not include a tax increase, Flowers wondered what would be the impact if the town attempted to lower the tax rate.

Cordeiro said projects, such as the Community House and Luddy might take a hit, along with funding for professional development for police officers.

"At this point in time, especially with the growth environment, I think that we need to grow a little bit more before we can cut the tax rate," Cordeiro said.

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