Culpeper town planners review Capital Improvement Projects (CIP)

The Town of Culpeper Planning Commission got a look at the proposed five-year Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) Tuesday night.

Town Planning Director Patrick Mulhern said projects are ranked in order of priority. Some projects represent an immediate need, while others are not.

â??We are trying to present a realistic CIP,â? said Mulhern.

Commissioner Charles Crist asked if the town staff was under any financial constraints when considering items for inclusion in the CIP.

â??Absolutely,â? said Mulhern, noting this yearâ??s budget was tight.

The planning director said some projects didnâ??t make the cut and others that had been considered and included before, such as the brick sidewalks for Davis Street, had been removed.

Trees, technology and cameras

At the end of the five-year plan, if town council approves the CIP, $530,000 – $30,000 for design â?? would incorporate trees along Main Street. While planting trees, the project would also improve existing parallel parking, sidewalks and crosswalks.

In FY 2017, the town would spend a total of $3.2 million, of which $900,000 is to replace a software system that has created problems for years and never performed to expectations.

â??We upgraded two months ago,â? said IT Director Tonya Estes, â??We are trying to make it work.â?

The police department wants to start phasing in the use of body cameras for its officers. The high definition low-light cameras will record each contact made by police with the public and â??will help resolve citizen complaints against officers and provide an impartial version of the facts,â? according to a narrative accompanying the FY 2017 funding request. Two body cameras are being field tested. The cost is about $34,000.

In addition, the police department wants to spend $90,000 over a two-year period to upgrade the in-car cameras to high definition models.

The town also wants to upgrade its Microsoft Office software to Office 2013, at a cost of $53,200 spread out over two years. The upgrade will allow the town to extend the â??lifecycleâ? of the software until FY 2023. The lifecycle of Office 2007 used by the town ends in FY 2017.

Radios on the radar

One of the big ticket items in the CIP is for handheld and in-car radios for the planned upgrade of the countyâ??s 800 MHz radio system. As was the agreement in the past, the town could use the system but would pay for its own radios. The estimated price tag for the upgrade is $500,000 – $250,000 in FY 2017 and $250,000 in FY 2018.

â??It replaces the radios we have, not the radio systemâ? said Town Manager Chris Hively.

The town manager went on to say that it is unknown if all radios have to be replaced or whether or not the existing radios could be upgraded. However, upgrading radios, if possible, carries a significant cost as well.

The town manager said that he and County Administrator Frank Bossio plan to meet soon to continue discussing the radio system upgrade, which the county, town, volunteer and rescue services and school system use for communication.

Replacing paper, brighter bulbs, WIFI in the park and water

An electronic records retention system would cost $100,000 in FY 2017, according to Estes. The town wants to scrap its current paper records system, which takes up valuable space with boxes of files.

â??It sounds like a lot of money,â? said Crist. â??Is it a priority for the town or is it being forced on us?â?

Hively said it is a priority given physical space needed to store paper records versus electronic storage.

Capital improvement plans for the Light and Power Department included continued replacement of current street light fixtures with more efficient, longer lasting and brighter LED ones. The cost is about $20,000 for each of the next five fiscal years.

In addition, the CIP calls for spending $1.45 million during the next five fiscal years to upgrade the electric distribution system, which dates to the 1930s and shows its age.

Also, long put off plans to reduce outages in the south end of town by replacing aerial service in the Oaklawn neighborhood with underground service appears to be gaining traction. The cost is about $430,000, with the majority of that spent in FY 2017. The Oaklawn circuit also serves the hospital.

With the addition of groundwater to supplement surface water from Lake Pelham, the town will be better able to replace aging equipment at the water treatment plant without disrupting service.

â??We can bring the water plant down without disruption,â? said Public Works Director Jim Hoy.

The public works director said the town continues to focus on attaining additional groundwater sources. The CIP calls for spending $1.2 million to design and construct a well, as well as piping a treatment plant for one well.

Although improvements to the Lake Pelham and Mountain Run Lake dams are shown as costing $9.525 million, town officials are still awaiting word on possible grant funding to help offset some of that cost. The dam improvements are required to meet safety standards.

Security cameras, WI-FI and replacement of the asphalt walking trails at Yowell Meadow Park also made the list, as did additional parking and a recreation field at Mountain Run Lake Park.

â??WI-FI in the park would be very good news for the people who use the park,â? said Chairman James Clements.

The chairman also noted that he has seen several CIP programs in other localities and Culpeperâ??s CIP was represented very well.

The total CIP, which must be approved by town council, carries a total price tag of $109 million spread out over five years.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at