City Council continued their discussion of Riverfront Park during Tuesday evening's work session.
Concerns from some council members centered on ecological and historic property impacts raised by the Army Corps of Engineers. Ward 4 Councilor Bea Paolucci asked about river bank stabilization, issues related to the Chesapeake Bay Act, soil quality for gardens and the estimated cost for construction.
Bill Downey, of Downey & Scott Construction Management Services, is the city's technical contact, and he said the city won’t know how much building the park will cost until there is a design.
Council is considering an outlay of $99,000 to hire Alexandria-based Rhodeside and Harwell to prepare a concept-level design plan.
“This initial design contract for $99,000 is a look before you leap,” Downey said. “There are a host of issues—soil, flood plain ... A lot of your questions will be answered at the end of the concept level design plan,” he said.
Vice Mayor Brad Ellis, Ward 1, said he'd support spending the money if the council would commit to building the park within the next two years, so that the completed $99,000 design wouldn't just sit on a shelf.
“What is it going to take to stabilize the river bank … if we can be sure that that is part of the deliverable, I can support [voting to proceed]," Ellis said. "If it's going to require a tax increase to pay for the park, then we need to discuss that," he said.
“What is the funding source?” Fred Howe, Ward 3, asked. “Ultimately we will move into a design construction phase and then construction. Are the taxpayers going to be on the hook for this?”
Howe said he would agree to vote to move forward with the design if council agreed in writing to pay for what they were going to buy. “That’s all I ask; fiscal responsibility,” he said.
He also continued to support a plan for all of Sophia Street, which would include the park. “You’re not going to generate the economic development you would with a complete Sophia Street plan,” he said.
Paolucci also asked about construction funding. "I've looked at the CIP [Capital Improvements Plan] through 2017 and I don’t see where were going to get the money," she said. "What other project are we not going to move on right now?"
"If everybody wants the park so much as to raise taxes or do without another project, then let’s proceed," Ellis said.
A vote to award the contract for Riverfront Park design services is scheduled for City Council's Jan. 8 meeting.
Paloucci has asked that all council members receive copies of the minutes from Riverfront Park task force meetings, and Kelly has asked they be provided a copy of the recommended contract.
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