Po­ten­tial projects could reach around $937.4 mil­lion

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jon Mur­ray

Denver’s list of po­ten­tial bond projects — from li­braries and parks to a trans­porta­tion cor­ri­dor — ap­pears al­most set­tled. On Wed­nes­day, Mayor Michael Han­cock gave the City Coun­cil his rec­om­men­da­tions for the $937.4 mil­lion mea­sure that may go be­fore vot­ers on the Nov. 7 bal­lot. »

Denver’s list of po­ten­tial bond projects has grown to $937.4 mil­lion af­ter Mayor Michael Han­cock weighed in Wed­nes­day with his rec­om­men­da­tions to the City Coun­cil.

The fi­nal pack­age of projects for li­braries, city-owned fa­cil­i­ties, parks and recre­ation cen­ters, trans­porta­tion cor­ri­dors, and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions still could be in for mi­nor changes by the coun­cil. It still must re­fer the bond mea­sures to the Nov. 7 bal­lot for vot­ers’ con­sid­er­a­tion.

But for the first time in a process that has lasted sev­eral months and in­volved sev­eral com­mu­nity com­mit­tees the list looks sub­stan­tially set­tled. In part, that’s be­cause Han­cock al­ready con­sulted coun­cil mem­bers.

“This bond is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to the growth and de­mand we are see­ing here in Denver and en­sure we pre­serve and en­hance this place that we are all so proud to call home,” Han­cock said on the steps of the City and County Build­ing, with coun­cil Pres­i­dent Al­bus Brooks and nine of the other 12 coun­cilmem­bers in the crowd be­hind him.

Here are five take­aways from Han­cock’s rec­om­men­da­tions and the process:

1. The mayor didn’t cut any projects — but added 21

The ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee strate­gi­cally left room for Han­cock and the coun­cil to add back projects that hadn’t rated as high-pri­or­ity. The com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions to­taled $749.2 mil­lion — well short of city of­fi­cials’ $900 mil­lion tar­get.

They took ad­van­tage, adding 21 projects. Those and ad­just­ments to ex­ist­ing projects to­tal $139 mil­lion, bring­ing the project to­tal to $887.4 mil­lion. The mayor’s of­fice added an­other $50 mil­lion to cover po­ten­tial cost fluc­tu­a­tions and over­runs.

2. Pol­i­tics played an overt role

Some of the changes were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, and coun­cil mem­bers ar­gue that’s for a good rea­son: They need to show that ev­ery part of the city will ben­e­fit when they ask vot­ers to pass the bond pack­age in Novem­ber.

The ad­di­tions mean that in south Denver, District 7’s Jolon Clark can point to $7 mil­lion to shore up the no­to­ri­ously crum­bling Alameda Av­enue un­der­pass, be­neath rail­road tracks east of Santa Fe Drive, to give the city time to work on more per­ma­nent fixes. South­west District 2’s Kevin Flynn can tout $2 mil­lion in im­prove­ments to Harvey Park Recre­ation Cen­ter and a $1.8 mil­lion re­place­ment of tennis courts at Bear Val­ley Park.

And in south­east District 4, Ken­dra Black lob­bied to add

$10.9 mil­lion for projects that will build a High Line Canal tun­nel be­neath Yale Av­enue, im­prove Yale near the light rail sta­tion and get started on pedes­trian cross­ing im­prove­ments along East Ham­p­den Av­enue.

3. A lot of projects would get money

Han­cock’s rec­om­men­da­tions would pro­vide money for 460 projects.

Nearly half of the se­lected projects, to­tal­ing $415.5 mil­lion, are in the trans­porta­tion and mo­bil­ity cat­e­gory, re­flect­ing Han­cock’s long-stated pri­or­ity; they in­clude a mix of road and bridge fixes, tran­sit fund­ing, pedes­trian bridges and new bike lanes, in­clud­ing on Broad­way south of Speer Boule­vard.

The largest item on the list is $101 mil­lion for de­ferred road main­te­nance, in­clud­ing repaving, fix­ing curbs and gut­ters, and ma­jor bridge re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

Here are the big­gest stand­alone projects: $75 mil­lion to cover about half the cost of the Denver Health and Hos­pi­tal Au­thor­ity’s planned Am­bu­la­tory Care Cen­ter, $55 mil­lion to kick off the East Col­fax Av­enue bus rapid tran­sit project, $38 mil­lion for a ren­o­va­tion of the Cen­tral Li­brary, $37.5 mil­lion for a new recre­ation cen­ter in West­wood and $35.5 mil­lion to­ward the Denver Art Mu­seum’s North Build­ing ren­o­va­tion.

4. The sell to tax­pay­ers: no tax in­crease

City of­fi­cials will sell the pack­age based in part on the lack of a tax in­crease. That is be­cause the project to­tal would al­low re­pay­ment of the bonds us­ing ex­ist­ing prop­erty taxes — the same rate through which the $550 mil­lion Bet­ter Denver Bonds that vot­ers ap­proved in 2007 were re­paid.

But it’s more com­pli­cated than that: Prop­erty val­ues have in­creased sharply across the city, in­clud­ing in val­u­a­tions is­sued for next year, mean­ing that the same tax rate would raise more money from most prop­erty own­ers.

Would vot­ers buy such a large bond pack­age?

“I be­lieve this num­ber to­day is fis­cally re­spon­si­ble, and it’s within the ca­pac­ity of the city with­out trig­ger­ing a tax in­crease,” Han­cock told re­porters. “And it al­lows us to meet some crit­i­cal needs in the city.”

5. The coun­cil still has a say On July 17 and July 24, the coun­cil will have all-mem­ber com­mit­tee meet­ings to re­view the projects with city staff mem­bers. It is set to con­sider mea­sures to re­fer the fi­nal pack­age to the bal­lot be­gin­ning Aug. 7, with a fi­nal vote pos­si­ble Aug. 14.

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