The Leesburg Town Council got its first stab at the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget Monday evening, focusing this week on the Capital Improvements Program as well as Town Manager Kaj Dentler’s proposed General Fund enhancements.
The upcoming year looks to be a very busy one for the capital projects staff in Town Hall, Capital Projects Manager Tom Brandon acknowledged. Nineteen projects are set to move to construction in the next year, with others beginning the design process. Twenty-eight projects have been added to the six-year CIP in the proposed budget. Overall, the proposed CIP includes 65 projects at a total of $204.4 million.
Two projects that received particular attention during the council’s work session were improvements to the intersection of North and King streets, and the potential upgrade or replacement of the Police Department’s computer aided dispatch and records management system, or CAD/RMS.
On the intersection improvements, Brandon said the staff is recommending the council approve an update to a study from five years ago to see if a traffic signal or other improvements at the intersection is warranted. That study is estimated to cost between $40,000 to $50,000, he said. The town did receive a $400,000 proffer from Loudoun County for intersection improvements or signalization as part of the courthouse expansion project.
According to a staff report, the State Code limits the collection of proffered cash contributions to the time of the recorded occupancy permit. The proffer is thus anticipated to be received in either late fiscal year 2022 or early fiscal year 2023 when occupancy of the constructed expansion is requested. The estimated cost of the design, construction, utility relocation, and right of way for the intersection project is $800,000.
The CAD/RMS upgrade is expected to be a major discussion point for the council during budget deliberations. Ultimately, Dentler noted, the council will need to make a decision on how to proceed with the town’s Emergency Communications Center and whether it should return dispatch responsibilities to the county.
According to a staff report, the county’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget includes funding of all technological and capital costs associated with the replacement of the CAD/RMS system—estimated at north of $2 million—but only if the town consolidates its ECC within Loudoun County. If Leesburg continues to have a separate ECC from Loudoun County, all costs associated with the needed replacement of the system will be the responsibility of the town. The action item was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors’ Finance/ Government Operations and Economic Development Subcommittee during a recent meeting.
Councilman Ron Campbell said this project is one area in which the council needs to tread lightly and be aware of the impacts.
“If we do partner [with the county] this is a real thing we can’t buy back. We make a conscious decision to make an investment in a partnership,” he said. “This is not something we can rush to judgment on in a couple of work sessions.”
Campbell requested a detailed financial plan of the county’s proposal, including what impact, if any, it would have on response times in Leesburg. He suggested that, should the council choose to hand off dispatch responsibilities to the county, the council looks at a “reinvestment” of the funds it would be saving.
In response to a question from Councilman Neil Steinberg, Leesburg Police Chief Gregory Brown said while he understands the financial benefits of the county taking over dispatch duties, he has some hesitation.
“As chief of police, I do have concerns about controlling accountability. I really need to feel that can be consistent and I can only feel that way if we are in charge of dispatching calls,” he said.
The council received a bit of good news regarding a long-anticipated road project. The interchange at Rt. 7 and Battlefield Parkway looks set to get funding this month to make up for the $13.7 million shortfall stemming from escalating VDOT project cost estimates. Brandon said those transfers are expected to be approved by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority this week, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board is expected to approve the design-build construction contract in March. Construction on the interchange should begin in late summer or early fall.
The council will continue its budget work with upcoming budget work sessions planned for March 11 and 25. Budget and tax rate adoption is eyed for March 26.
For more information on the budget, go to leesburgva.gov/budget.