Huntington ponders over improvements - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Huntington ponders over improvements

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The City of Huntington has compiled a list of more than $13 million worth of capital improvements, including badly needed repairs to municipal buildings and city streets. However, the new city budget contains no funding for capital projects.

On March 22, Mayor Steve Williams took members of Huntington City Council on a bus tour of city buildings and problem-plagued streets. Williams said he did so because he wanted council members to get a firsthand look at the problems before sitting down and debating what to do about them.

The list of needed capital projects, put together by the city's Public Works Department, includes an estimated $12.9 million in one-time costs and an anticipated $750,000 in continuing costs.

City Councilman Chairman Mark Bates said he favors putting together a five-year capital improvements plan. Going to the voters with a request for a five-year excess levy might be an option, Bates said.

"We need to come up with a three- to five-year plan to address this," Williams said. "We have two choices: We can do nothing and slide back, or we can take action. 

"The question is how do we pay for it?"

The report envisions nearly $1 million in repairs at four fire stations, including $380,000 to remediate a severe mold problem at Centennial Fire Station at 7th Avenue and 9th Street. Needed upgrades to Huntington City Hall are estimated to cost $500,000. The plan proposes $35,000 to study problems at the Huntington City Garage. Repairs might give the old building a new lease on life, but the study may conclude that it needs to be replaced, a step that could cost as much as $2.5 million.

The list also includes a number of street problems that need to be addressed, including a major slip in the Stamford Park residential area that could cost as much as $3 million to correct. Two similar slips on North Edgemont Road are estimated to cost a total of $550,000 to fix. 

Stabilizing Hilltop Road near the city's Dietz Hollow landfill is expected to cost $500,000. The Public Works Department's list includes a street light replacement program budgeted at $2 million. 

The list calls for replacement of the 8th Street bridge in Ritter Park but offers no cost estimate for a new span. 

On March 24, City Council unanimously approved a $45 million city budget for Fiscal 2015 that contains no funding for public works projects other than a $1 million line item for street paving. However, the new budget does include a 3 percent pay raise for city employees. It's the first pay hike for Huntington city workers since 2008.