From playgrounds and fire stations, to street repairs and renovations to City Hall, the City of La Crosse plans to spend just over $39 million on projects next year.
This total is slightly higher than the first draft of the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budget, but remains the lowest in several years. The City Plan Commission approved the CIP on Monday with some changes.
The CIP budget now heads to the finance and personnel committee on Thursday, where Mayor Mitch Reynolds said he expects some minor changes to be made. After that, he will go to city council next week for approval.
The project budget is just a slice of the city’s overall operating budget, which is approved and passed in November.
The 2023 project budget includes the next phase of the Kids Coulee playground in Myrick Park, which will cost $750,000.
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The city just opened the first phase last week, renovating existing wooden playground equipment. The second phase will include additional amenities, including the possibility of a zipline, more slides and the refurbishment of the band hull performance area.
In total, the Playground redesign is expected to cost just over $1 million.
Additionally, the city will prioritize construction of its new North Side Fire Station #4 next year.
The most expensive project in the budget, the city plans to spend about $4.4 million to build the new facility.
After historical concerns, the plan for the new fire station was slightly modified to now sit next to the original 1940 structure, rather than replacing it. But the scope of the project is still relatively the same, officials said.
This project budget has increased slightly since its introduction in June. It was originally offered at $28.8 million.
Some of the additions that raised the price include a fifth-floor renovation of City Hall, money to implement the new ADA transition plan, more trees for downtown, and a new shelter. Badger Hickey Park. A handful of street projects have also been added and removed from next year’s spending.
Much of the renovation of City Hall will make way for a growing IT department. It will also help with storage, staging and training, depending on the budget details. It is expected to cost $700,000.
The city will also replace the existing shelter at Badger Hickey Park, which was built in 1974 and currently does not meet FEMA floodplain requirements. The new shelter will cost $85,000.
And downtown, the city will invest $850,000 in improving the tree canopy in accordance with the Downtown Master Plan. This will help reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and lower surface temperatures, in addition to calming traffic and making the downtown area more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
Just over a dozen community members wrote letters in support of improved trails across the city, asking for funding to be included in the project budget.
Reynolds said that thanks to the city’s new filing system for the budget, the item was considered routine maintenance rather than annual projects, and would instead be handled using operational funds.
“We hope to see real capital projects directed towards these funds in the future. Because it is certainly very beneficial – as all these letters say – very beneficial for our community to expand the possibilities of trail use. But they have to be capital projects instead of routine maintenance,” Reynolds said.
“But it’s being worked out, just to be clear,” Reynolds said.
This small growth in the project budget comes as the city faces a big uphill battle with its overall budget.
In June, it was identified that the city faces a revenue shortfall of about $4.2 million as spending increases but sources of new funds are scarce.
The city’s estimates board will meet Sept. 6 to review the operating budget.
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