Road projects, park improvements, a new police station and a new fire station were all subjects of conversation at the initial work session for Brentwood’s fiscal year 2018 proposed budget.
Department heads and city commissioners met Thursday afternoon and into Thursday evening at the Municipal Center to discuss the current state of the city’s finances and to plan where Brentwood’s money would best be spent in the coming year and beyond.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know from Thursday’s meeting.
City Manager Kirk Bednar began the discussion of the fiscal year 2018 budget explainging how Brentwood’s economy has fared over the past year.
“Overall revenue growth remains strong,” he said, noting that fiscal year 2017 brought in $6.2 million more than was laid out in the operating budget.
Bednar expressed confidence in Brentwood’s economy due to the strong housing market and a strong office/retail space rental market, which has only a 2 percent vacancy rate. New housing starts have dipped a bit, but Bednar did not see that dip as any cause for alarm.
The revenues for fiscal year 2018’s budget total $37,478,020, about a 3.7 percent increase from the previous year.
“Next year’s budget isn’t going to be dramatically different than this year’s budget from an operating standpoint,” Bednar said. “But we are at a point where I think we need a little more discussion about long-term and capital planning.”
Each fiscal year, the city comes up with a six-year Capital Improvement Plan. A discussion of how the city could use surplus revenues to fund projects for the coming fiscal year’s plan made up the bulk of the meeting.
“What we’ve tried to do is project out for you over the next six years CIP how much money we think we’ll have available that we think can be programmed or planned for projects that aren’t already funded,” Bednar said.
The city calculated that it would have $40,450,000 in available revenue in the next six years to fund these projects. That number was arrived at using the city’s typically conservative budgeting philosophy.
“We try to be conservative on the revenue side of things and probably a little aggressive on the expenditure side,” Bednar explained. This way the city tries not to overextend itself.
To offer a wide variety of choices, city staff drew up a list of possible projects to spend this money on, however, that totaled over $60 million, far more than the city would have to spend even according to the rosiest revenue projections.
Officials discussed smaller projects, like additional funds needed for the city’s new radio system and traffic signal improvements. Other less costly items included work done to stabilize the slave cabins at Smith Park and upgrades to city computer software.
The big ticket items arrived in the form of road projects. Bednar was blunt about these.
“I guess I’ll tell you up front, there’s not enough money to do everything on this list,” Bednar said.
Some of the main projects presented were for the following roads:
- Ragsdale from Sunset to Split Log – projected cost $10 million
– This project would widen Ragsdale to three lanes within this area.
- McEwen Drive Extension – projected cost $8 million
– This would create a new extension of McEwen east of Wilson Pike that would allow access to the Traditions, Morgan Farms and Taramore subdivisions. This project seemed to enjoy support from some of the commissioners present. “I think McEwen has the opportunity to have the biggest positive impact for traffic flow for residents of Brentwood,” Commissioner Mark Gorman said.
- Wilson Pike – projected cost up to $5 million
– As Bednar explained, this project would allow for some road widening at parts of Wilson Pike that lack much of a shoulder and would improve some turn lanes. Bednar thought state funding for any work on this road was unlikely, so he sought feedback on whether the city should pay for any of it. The proposal did not seem to garner much enthusiasm, with some pointing out the difficulty involved in moving mailboxes and power lines back farther into people’s yards to make way for a road widening.
- Sunset from Owl Creek Bridge to Concord – projected cost up to $4 million
– This would widen this stretch of road to three lanes.
Other projects that were presented involved city parks:
- Smith Park Phase 3 – projected cost $7 million
– This project would build a road to allow access to the back 80 acres of the park. The cost also includes money to develop additional athletic fields in the park. “I agree that we want to do this, but I don’t know if we want to rush,” Commissioner Ken Travis said.
- New Office for Parks Department – projected cost $1.5 million
– This would call for the building of a new facility for the parks department somewhere at Crockett Park. As it stands now, part officials work at the Service Center in the south part of town.
Brentwood Police Chief Jeff Hughes and Fire & Rescue Chief Brian Goss then took the floor to discuss a couple of projects related to their respective departments.
NEW POLICE STATION
Chief Hughes presented a case for building a new police station for the Brentwood Police Department based on safety, efficiency and convenience concerns. The proposal calls for building on city-owned property on Heritage Way, just south of the Heritage at Brentwood senior living community.
Hughes pointed out the relative vulnerability of the department’s current setup in the Municipal Center— especially given the recent upsurge in attacks on police officers nationwide.
“The receptionist, Ms. Margie, is literally our first line of defense,” Hughes said, explaining how the receptionist is the first person people see when they enter the Municipal Center to reach the police department.
Hughes also pointed to the increase in response times over the past few years for calls to the police department. He blamed that partially on the department’s current location on the north side of the city in the middle of the congested Maryland Farms area.
“We can go east on Maryland Way or we can go west on Maryland Way and that’s pretty much our options,” Hughes said. “You’re talking about covering 40 square miles, and there’s no easy way to get out of Maryland Way at 4:30 in the afternoon.”
The department had the Architects Design Group draw up a plan for a new building that would cost $11.5 million, although Hughes said he believed the department could make do with a less expensive space.
“I think it’s a good conversation we need to have,” Commissioner Anne Dunn said about the proposal.
“To serve the community, I almost think you need to push it forward … as soon as it can,” Commissoner Ken Travis said of the police station.
NEW FIRE PRECINCT AND STATION
Fire & Rescue Chief Brian Goss said the immense 25.8 percent population grown the city has seen in recent years calls for a new fire precinct station. During the same time period of population growth, the fire department had seen a 36.67 percent increase in responses to calls.
“Our increases in responses have actually outpaced our population growth,” Goss said.
He said in the state of Tennessee, the Brentwood fire department ranks second in terms of area covered by each fire station.
The city currently has four fire districts, but Goss said District 3 is poorly located and has a service area of only 3.45 miles. Goss proposed moving that district station, which is currently on the south side of town, closer to the Moores Lane/Carothers corridor.
“We’re not located near our call concentrations,” Goss said. “Relocating to that Moores/Carothers area would get us closer to where our call volume is.”
He predicted that moving the station would result in District 3’s number of responses going up by 20 percent.
Finally, Goss made a case for the creation of a new District 5, which would have its own fire station on the southeast side of the city, near the Split Log/Wilson Pike corridor.
He said the area this new station would serve has seen a 56.5 percent increase in call volume in the last two years alone.
“It would be a little bit of a unique facility,” Goss explained, saying that he envisioned it having a small town neighborhood feel.
Bednar ended the meeting telling the commissioners he would be in contact with them in the coming weeks to get more feedback on the projects discussed at the meeting. The budget meeting addressing the new six-year CIP plan will be April 4.