In response to the December 22 Our View, I would like to take exception to some of the conclusions reached about the value of city capital investments.
First, in regard to the heavily used King Street Trolleys, which have carried more than one million riders since the service began in early 2008, the citys decision to purchase hybrid trolleys was made in recognition of 1) the environmental benefits of having transit vehicles that emit 95 percent less pollution than the current trolleys; 2) the transportation and tourism value that the trolleys provide; and 3) the environmental value of using these hybrid vehicles in a busy retail area such as King Street. In the 21st century, elements of marketing Alexandria as a place to live, work or invest in will include environmental initiatives such as the use of hybrid trolleys. For the $0.2 million cost to the city and the $2.4 million federal cost, the hybrid trolleys represent a very sound investment in the citys economic and environmental future.
The second capital investment that can be soundly defended is the new Charles Houston Recreation Center. While the initial idea was for a renovation of the old recreation center, when looking at the needs of the then- 30-year-old facility, it was determined that, to adequately meet the communitys current and future needs, the building needed to be increased in size. The size increase, coupled with construction cost inflation and the need to put all utilities underground (as is standard for private development), caused the needed capital investment for the Charles Houston facility to be $15.3 million.
Third, the cost of the Community Service Boards program for Safe Haven has been largely misunderstood. The $3 million cost cited is not an annual operating cost, but a one-time capital cost to adaptively reuse and to refurbish a large historic facility (which once served as a firehouse) into a building-code-compliant residence and treatment facility for the homeless. The operating costs for this facility are largely financed by the state and federal government, as those entities realize the proven value of seeking to assist the homeless lead more productive lives.
Finally, concerning the upcoming budget process, I welcome everyone to review the detailed Fiscal Year 2011 Budget documents, which will be issued on February 9, and to provide your ideas and feedback to City Council. From the proposed operating budget and capital plans (which will provide transparency and detail about proposed services, taxes and capital investments), to the information that Council members will request and receive from staff as we analyze the budget, spending will receive a thorough review, so that sound fiscal and service decisions for the community can be made.
-Bill Euille is mayor of Alexandria