Now that Asheville voters have spoken in favor of $74 million in bond funding, what happens next? According to Assistant City Manager Cathy Ball, city staff members are eager to move forward. At the same time, she says, the quality of the city’s execution will be critical: “The way we do this work makes a big difference for our community.”
To guard against budget overruns, Ball explained to City Council on Dec. 13, each project budget will include a contingency amount, and all estimates used for planning purposes will include inflation projections. The city will use value engineering, a planning discipline that analyzes the cost and performance of building components to determine the lowest cost over the lifespan of the project while meeting functional requirements. Design contracts will require that projects achieve construction cost estimates equal to 90 percent or less of the project’s overall budget when the design is 90 percent complete.
Staffing up to manage the bond-related projects over the next seven years could be a challenge. As City Manager Gary Jackson explained before the Council decided to place the bond issue on November’s ballot, the city will need to add new staff members to handle the increased load.
According to Ball, city managers decided to create a director of capital projects position to oversee all city capital projects, which include $122 million in projects under its capital improvement plan over the next five years, as well as $74 million in bond-funded projects.
An interim capital projects director will be appointed in the near future, Ball says. That person will provide leadership while the city searches for a permanent director. The city also plans to hire six additional related employees within the Capital Projects Division.
Ensuring timely project progress and completion, Ball continued, will be accomplished through detailed project scheduling for each individual project. She described an interactive website developed by Winston-Salem to manage and communicate project information for $139.2 million in bonds approved by that city’s voters in 2014. Asheville will create a similar website, she said, which will show residents each project’s status and the total amount of money spent in real time.
In January, Ball said, an interim working team made up of members of the city’s Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Facilities Management departments will continue planning for bond projects. Also in January, Council will hold a work session to consider next steps and priorities. As the fiscal year 2018 city budget is developed from January through June, Council will plan for bond-related projects alongside other projects in the city’s Capital Improvement Program. Council will approve the FY 2018 budget in June, she said, for the fiscal year beginning July 1.