October 15, 2020
View Full Press Briefing Here: https://youtu.be/bYtXNtYhnSQ
Westchester County Executive George Latimer has sent to the Westchester County Board of Legislators the 2021 Proposed County Capital Budget. This is the third proposed budget of the Latimer administration.
The 2021 Capital Budget proposes an additional $231.8 million in new appropriations. This includes: $138.8 million for the general fund, $80.4 million for the sewer and water districts, $1 million for the refuse district and $11.6 million for the airport. Additionally, the County Capital Program supports over 2,000 permanent jobs within the County, which comes at a critical time when the region’s economy has been negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic.
Latimer said: “Despite the challenges we have faced this year, we are continuing to invest in the County’s capital infrastructure. This is not only important to maintain our assets, but also in creating jobs within the County. With our partners in the construction industry, we will award over $130 million in construction contracts in 2020, representing 31 projects throughout the County. A number of these projects have been recommended by County Legislators; we have incorporated their advocacy into our plans.”
Year-to-date the County has expended over $155 million on capital improvements. The backlog of capital projects has also been reduced by $400 million since Latimer took office in 2018.
Over the past three years, Latimer’s Administration has made great strides to improve the capital program and increase efficiency. The most notable improvement resulted from the approval by the New York State Legislature to eliminate the $10 million dollar bond referendum cap, which ultimately saves the County money by eliminating extra costs from breaking up projects unnecessarily into pieces.
Director of Operations Joan McDonald said: “This was part of the County Executive’s desire to move projects forward. All of these reforms have allowed us to reduce the project backlog significantly.”
Additional improvements to the program have included:
- Moving short useful life items (i.e. passenger vehicles) to the operating budget
- Adding resources such as:
- 10 additional positions for engineering
- Funding for feasibility studies, asset management, and facility plans
- Consolidating planning and project delivery functions within the Department of Public Works
- Raising the RFP threshold from $100k to $250k
- Streamlining the Board of Legislators approvals on certain projects to not breakup design from construction
Additionally, by being able to start implementation on January 1, the County will improve project delivery speeds dramatically.
County Budget Director Lawrence Soule said: “By authorizing some debt in conjunction with the budget each year we are taking a major step forward. This debt authorization changes all of this for the better – resulting in a quicker turn around for the residents waiting for these projects to be completed.”
The affordability of housing within the County remains the County Executive’s top priority. This budget proposal requests $20 million in new appropriations: $10 million for the New Homes Land Acquisition Fund and $10 million for the Housing Implementation Fund for the construction of infrastructure necessary to support the development of affordable housing.
Latimer said: “Late last year, we released the Housing Needs Assessment that showed that there was a need for over 11,700 new affordable housing units. This budget continues the message we stated last year with $20 Million more in critical resources to help create some of these units.”
Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond said: “This budget shows that the County continues to be a solid partner with our development community in creating more affordable housing opportunities.”
Parkways, Roads and Bridges
An additional $42 million was added for Parkways, Roads and Bridges, including $8 million in additional funding for the rehabilitation of the Bronx River Parkway and $33.9 million for various roads and bridges county-wide.
Department of Public Works Commissioner Hugh Greechan said: “Taking full advantage of the reduced COVID related traffic volumes; we will continue to have a robust Roads and Bridges program. We have experienced lower bid prices and shorter construction schedules. Maintaining the free flow of traffic is a major contributor of the overall project cost.”
$80.4 million in additional funding was added for Sewer and Water infrastructure projects for 2021, with most including features that will result in energy efficiencies. Projects that will result in a reduction in greenhouse gasses include work at the Yonkers Joint Water and Resource Recovery Facility that will allow the plant to operate off-the-grid on recaptured methane and electrical and HVAC upgrades at the Port Chester plant.
Department of Environmental Facilities Commissioner Vincent Kopicki said: “These are exciting projects that will not only benefit the environment and help us to meet our permit requirements but will keep our department moving forward with new sustainable technologies.”
Director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability Pete McCartt said: “Over the last couple of years an expansive portfolio of energy-efficiency capital projects commenced but few as exciting and demonstrative of the co-benefits of this work than capturing the natural gas at the Yonkers plant and using it to fuel the operations at the facility itself. Converting to renewable energy, lowering energy expenditures and reducing our Green House Gas emissions are key objectives of the County.”
At the airport, $11.7 million in new appropriations are requested including $8.7 million in additional funding for the storm water management program and enhanced water supply system.
Greechan said: “There have been a number of COVID related enhancements performed at the Main Terminal to allow for the safe return of commercial traffic to the airport.”
This proposed capital plan continues numerous investments in the County Park System, including the transformation of Playland, rebuilding of Memorial Field, and the completion of a continuous Bronx River Pathway from New York City to Kensico Plaza.
Relating to the dollars earmarked for Memorial Field Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins said: “The County is following through on a commitment to the people of Mount Vernon and this County. We are focused on finishing Memorial Field and restoring it to its former glory. I commend the County Executive for keeping his word on this project, and I look forward to the day it is completed.”
Westchester County Parks Commissioner Kathy O’Connor said: “Our parks are more essential now than ever before and these continued improvements are needed to service our millions of visitors each year. The last few years have seen many capital improvements made to our parks and we welcome this continued trend.”
The Westchester County Board of Legislators will receive the proposed Capital Budget and the proposed Operating Budget and are charged with passing the County Budget by the end of December 2020.
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