State College

State College Borough Council approves capital improvement plan

Borough Council on Monday approved the spending plan that will serve as the framework for its next five years of projects.

Council unanimously passed a capital improvement plan for 2015-19 that calls for 35 projects and more than $52 million to be spent, including $10 million next year.

The plan, an annual undertaking, doesn’t commit borough money to those projects — that still has to be done in the annual budget process. The capital improvement plan instead gives borough staff a list of projects to prepare for.

This year, the plan includes four new projects. They are: a high speed Internet infrastructure project, which is projected to cost $443,000 over five years; a replacement police records management and mobile computer system, $140,000; a new brush truck to be shared by multiple borough departments, $190,000; and funding for the State College Community Land Trust, which seeks to design and build new affordable housing units, $150,000.

The plan would require general fund contributions of $2.2 million in 2015, according to the borough.

The biggest ticket items, which have been on previous plans, are the Pugh Street parking garage replacement project, $22 million, and downtown master plan infrastructure improvements, $6.4 million.

Several council members balked Monday at the plan to include $350,000 in 2015 for the proposed downtown improvements. That money would go to firms designing the project so it can move forward.

Councilman Tom Daubert asked the number be lower — $100,000 in 2015 — and that the design process be slowed down so council can prioritize what elements it wants to pursue and when.

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said the total was an estimate based on the proposed cost of the project. If council chooses to scale back the scope of the improvements, that number would go down. The plan doesn’t lock council in to spending $350,000, he said.

Council voted 4-2 against Daubert’s amendment, and went on to approve the CIP 6-1, with only Daubert voting against.

The panel had little other discussion of the plan Monday, having reviewed various parts of the CIP at meetings in May and June.

Also Monday, council decided against taking over from the Centre Region Council of Governments the lead role in a proposed local effort to enter the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition.

The national energy competition, open to communities with populations between 5,000 and 250,000, seeks to develop sustainable energy-saving innovations and that will eventually pay out a $5 million prize to the winner.

COG had previously explored the idea of entering the contest, but ultimately decided against it. State College was then asked by City-Green, a local advisory board that promotes sustainable energy, to take over the application.

Fountaine recommended on Monday that council not take on the project, saying doing so would likely require a full-time staff member, and potentially more if the borough were to make it further into the competition. The resources would adversely affect the borough’s ability to work on sustainability projects of its own, he said.

“It’s a laudable prize, and I can understand the desire to win one,” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said Monday. “But I think in this case, it just might be counterproductive.”