City council approves $861.4 million capital budget for 2017

The Columbus City Council has approved $861.4 million in capital spending for this year, including water and sewer upgrades, parks improvements, street repaving and other neighborhood investments.

Council members approved the 2017 capital-improvements budget Monday. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther has said the spending plan is aggressive and fiscally responsible and helps all city residents. For every dollar the city allocates this year, he said, 88 cents will help neighborhoods.

The plan represents $861.4 million in “great projects,” said Dan Giangardella, the Ginther administration’s deputy director of finance, and reflects the mayor’s three priorities of “neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods.”

South Side resident Maudie Grace, of the Deshler Park Civic Association, thanked the council for including money for park improvements in her area. Overall, nearly a third of the capital budget is directed at all types of projects on the South Side -- the most of any section in the city.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Grace said.

Citywide, the capital budget includes $16 million in new money dedicated to recreation and parks projects this year.

The budget’s single largest line item sets aside $276 million to build and repair sanitary sewers. Another $212 million is dedicated to transportation projects, including street resurfacing, sidewalks, bike improvements and new traffic signals.

The budget includes about $11.9 million to relocate Cannon Drive running alongside Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center campus, and $13.1 million for a streetscape plan along High Street in the Short North.

Among public-safety projects, the budget includes: $6 million for a new Columbus Police Division substation near the Lazelle Woods Community Center at 8140 Sancus Blvd. on the Far North Side, $1.5 million for police server storage, about $6 million for new medics, trucks and equipment for the Columbus Division of Fire, and $4.7 million to build a new fire station at the southeast corner of Waggoner Road and East Broad Street on the Far East Side.

The budget also has about $220,000 to install in 18 firehouses new vending machines that firefighters will use to check out drugs that are needed to restock the city’s medic units. The vending machines will make it easier for the department to track which firefighters are checking out the drugs.

The city pays for capital projects by issuing voter-approved bond packages that are repaid using a portion of income-tax collections and utilities ratepayer fees. The city also uses Ohio Water Development Authority loans to finance projects, city Auditor Hugh Dorrian has said.

“I want to thank the voters of Columbus, who have given us the means to do the work,” Giangardella said.

About $323 million of the capital budget is new spending, with $538.5 million carried over from projects in previous years.

Six council members — President Zach Klein was absent — approved the capital budget unanimously.

“That theme of neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods,” said Councilman Michael Stinziano, “it’s really going to have an impact.”

mlane@dispatch.com