Road improvements, park projects highlight capital improvement plan in Farmington

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published December 10, 2019

File photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON — City Council members and staff took a look ahead at the city’s future at the Dec. 2 council meeting during discussions of the city’s 2020-2025 capital improvement plan.

Various projects — 112 to be exact — are included in the plan, which has a budget of $23.2 million. Roads make up the largest portion of the budget at 29%, followed by sidewalk and streetscape improvements at 22%, water and sewer system work at 17%, recreation and cultural projects at 12%, vehicles and equipment projects at 8%, parking lot improvements at 5%, buildings and grounds repairs at 4%, and drainage work at 3%.

Mayor Sara Bowman told the Farmington Press previously that further investments in parks, streets and sidewalks were atop her personal priorities list.

“We have very limited resources. … How do we spread the money around and do the most good for the most people? We have to be creative with our funding,” she said previously.

Council and staff members also discussed a short list of 2019-2020 projects — including Freedom Road, Mayfield Street, the downtown parking lot and Drake Park — that they are still working on completing before the fiscal year ends.

Mayfield Street holds a rating of 2 on the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scale and has seen its fair share of flooding due to a storm sewer line that isn’t large enough. It will get a road makeover as well as an additional storm sewer line to help mitigate the flooding.

While the estimated cost for the project came in $100,000 over budget, City Manager David Murphy said it’s imperative that the road be fixed.

“There was literally canoes floating on the road (last time it flooded),” Murphy said. “It was creeping up to people’s garage doors, to their front porch. We have to take care of that.”

Council and staff members discussed and decided to forego micro-surfacing the downtown parking lot after learning it’s not a good long-term solution. Instead, they will wait a few years before conducting a comprehensive project to put down new asphalt.

Reconstruction of the Drake Park parking lot will also be postponed, likely until 2021, while the city looks for additional grant funding to help subsidize the project.

By waiting, Murphy said, the city will be able to increase the scope of what can be improved at the park alongside the parking lot. They could tear down the tennis courts, putting grass in their place temporarily; reconstruct the walkway along Drake Street to follow and lead to Longacre Elementary School, creating a safer passageway; and make improvements to the park’s facilities.

Bowman said the parking lot is a huge concern currently, so council members and staff would have to explain and convince residents how they will get more out of the investment if the city waits longer for grants and funding options.

Tearing down the tennis courts in favor of a grassy field caused some contention; a few council members wanted to be certain the courts aren’t used before taking them away.

Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christianson said the city’s parks and recreation survey in 2017 showed a surplus of seven tennis courts, with tennis not ranking highly among residents’ preferred activities. He suggested a gaga ball pit, pickleball courts, cricket fields, or more basketball and volleyball courts as potential alternative options for the space down the road.

Some of the other major projects residents may see come to fruition include the Farmington Road streetscape, a new parking structure downtown, the Maxfield Training Center acquisition, an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant pathway leading from the Maxfield Training Center through Shiawassee Park to the downtown corridor and the potential for City Hall operations to be relocated in order to sell the current building and turn a profit.

Murphy said selling City Hall has been discussed before, as developers have shown interest, but there are currently “no active plans.”

“We really do need to figure out if it’ll be cheaper for us in the long run to rehab what we have here or to sell the whole thing and move elsewhere,” he said. “Nothing in the near future, but it is something we have to look at. We’re at capacity now as far as space goes.”

With a laundry list of projects on the capital improvement plan, Murphy admits the city won’t be able to get them all completed by 2025.

“We simply don’t have the money for every project. That’s unfortunate, but we try to do what we can to prioritize. I think having this tool (the plan) in our toolbox helps us to stay on target and keeps us mindful of what we need right away versus what we can put off for a couple of years,” he said. “It’s a living, breathing document that will constantly change.”

For more information, visit farmgov.com.

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