Criticism of Sunset Hills’ capital needs as ‘Christmas wish list’ unfair

To the editor:

In response to Mr. Daryl Oberkfell’s July 26 letter to the editor titled “Sunset Hills’ capital needs reads like someone’s Christmas wish list,” I would like to clear some confusion that appears to exist regarding the nature of the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

As has been accurately reported by the Call, the city’s Capital Improvement Plan does list nearly 100 forecasted projects totaling $7.8 million over five years.

Development of the plan began two months ago, and after eight public meetings, it was unanimously approved by the Board of Aldermen last week.

Being fully transparent, the detailed listing of potential projects, referenced by year, can be found within the plan posted on the city’s website.

To suggest that the list of potential projects is a “Christmas wish list,” however, is unfair.

The expenditures identified, which include roadway maintenance, replacement of aging equipment, various park infrastructure improvements and the purchase of police cars, are those items city departments believe are required to maintain the current level of service for residents.

As Mr. Oberkfell has correctly observed, one can quickly discover upon reviewing the list that some projects are clearly of higher priority than others.

And this is precisely why the Capital Improvement Committee, which is comprised of both residents and elected officials, has implemented a scoring system through which those projects can be individually assessed and subsequently ranked.

Such a methodical process, which places priority on health, safety and welfare of our residents, will not be easy.

By taking this approach, the public will not only have a better understanding of which efforts will and will not be funded moving forward, but they will also have more insight into the process by which those decisions were made.

In fact, in terms of cuts, many projects will not be funded, much like has occurred in prior years.

For example, the public works budget for capital improvements in 2012 is $283,184 less than it was in 2011, due to overall revenue constraints and the need for cuts in spending.

Such cuts are made every year and are the toughest decisions that municipalities make, given the level of services our citizens demand.

Similar to the dilemma individuals and families within our community face, we must make these tough choices and live within our means.

I, as a member of the city’s Board of Aldermen and chair of the Capital Improvement Committee, welcome Mr. Oberkfell’s questions and appreciate him taking an interest in how tax dollars are and will be spent.

I would encourage him and anyone else to become more involved in the process, understand the facts and support our great city in finding solutions to the challenges we as a community face, as the decisions we make on capital improvements today will have an impact for years to come.