Finding necessary capital improvement projects in Highland Park isn’t a problem. Finding money to get them done, however, is another matter.
Such is one dilemma facing Highland Park Town Council members during this year’s budget process. On Monday, they discussed priorities for a Capital Improvement Plan covering the next five fiscal years.
“You always have more projects than you have money for,” Town Administrator Bill Lindley told council members. “That’s just a reality.”
The session gave the council a chance to prioritize 26 projects, totaling $29.3 million, recommended by various departments over the next five years. About 75 percent of that total includes projects for utilities or streets and traffic. The rest are mostly parks and recreation or public safety initiatives.
The most prominent project is a plan to rehabilitate Preston Road in two phases over the next three years. The first phase would include resurfacing between Armstrong and Beverly, as well as upgrading the traffic signal at Preston and Armstrong.
A second phase would cover road work between Beverly and St. Andrews, in front of the Highland Park Village shopping center. As proposed, the project would close lanes of Preston but would not require a detour. A separate proposal to rehabilitate Livingston Avenue alongside Highland Park Village also is a priority.
The Preston project would require about $3.1 million from HP, with the rest being covered by Dallas County, under the current proposal.
A massive ongoing project for replacement and rehabilitation of the town’s water and sanitary sewer infrastructure involves a partnership with University Park, and also is on the docket.
A handful of the staff recommendations were holdovers from the most recent CIP in 2010, when some projects had to be cancelled or postponed in favor of the Town Hall reconstruction project that was finished earlier this year.
Some of the projects that were labeled as priorities on Monday include:
- Entering the Project 25 Dallas city/county police radio system
- A study for town-wide video and license-plate recognition technology
- Various improvements to Douglas Park and Flippen Park
- Rehabilitation of various stretches of Lakeside Drive and Armstrong Parkway
- A study of dredging and silt-removal options for Exall Lake
Other projects that appear unlikely to be considered during this five-year CIP cycle include:
- A traffic signal upgrade at Abbott Avenue and Mockingbird Lane
- A two-phase rehabilitation of Douglas Drive
- Improvements to the restroom building at the Highland Park Swimming Pool
- Reconstruction of the town’s eight public tennis courts
- Cosmetic paving enhancements to Willowood Alley
- A study of shoreline stability and silt removal on the Conner Park shoreline
Of course, some fine-tuning still needs to be done, since funding all of the prioritized projects as written would likely result in a significant budget shortfall.
“It looks to me like we need additional money just to do the things that need to be done,” said Mayor Joel Williams. “We’re going to have to make decisions that are in the best interests of this community.”
If the council approves the shortfall, part of the difference might be made up with more tax revenue from an anticipated increase in property values. Other options include a tax increase or taking out a loan, neither of which HP has undertaken in many years.
“I think we’ve got to make some hard decisions,” said council member John McKnight. “Either we cut projects out, or we raise more revenue.”
Keep in mind that nothing was finalized on Monday. The latest recommendations will be sent to the town’s finance and audit committee for further consideration, before returning to the council for a vote later this summer.