13 Jan 2017

RE:      2017-2021 Capital Improvements Plan                                        

 January 10, 2017

Mayor Willits and Windsor Heights City Council Members,

On October 24, 2016, staff met with the Council Budget Committee (Policy and Finance) to begin discussions of a Capital Improvement Plan.  This discussion was an opportunity for the Committee to provide staff their insight and thoughts regarding the extensive infrastructure program proposed in this CIP, with particular focus on overall infrastructure elements and incorporating the strategic goals and the Complete Streets Policy.

On November 7, 2016, staff met with the Council Public Works Committee to also review priorities within the Capital Improvement Plan.  On November 11, a discussion occurred with the Council Trail Hub Committee.

At the conclusion of a second Council Budget Committee meeting on December 12 and another Trail Hub Committee meeting on December 13, staff is confident the proposed Plan supports and meets the following core objectives:

  • Provides a Funding Plan for Street, Sewer, and Water Infrastructure Improvements and Maintenance thereof
  • Funds Storm Water Projects
  • Redesigns University Avenue with Streetscape
  • Implements Complete Streets and Safe Routes to Schools
  • Expands Bike Trail/Trail Hub Improvements/Opportunities
  • Supports the latest draft of the Comprehensive Plan provided by RDG
  • Supports the TEAP Walkability/Pedestrian Safety Study Report provided by HRG
  • Supports the Healthiest State and Blue Zones Initiatives

A Capital Improvement Plan is a framework for strategic infrastructure investment.  It respects two realities:  the city has to perform an array of prioritized goals, and the city has limited resources.  The Plan should support the achievements of the City Council’s Vision for the Community.  The key to this strategy is the City Council’s recognition of investment in infrastructure.  While it is not uncommon to have an overwhelming comprehensive list of the improvement needs, it is extraordinary not to have a plan to support the needs.  Without a plan that is supported financially, the list of infrastructure improvements will continue to expand.

Currently, Windsor Heights is in the position of recovery.  This proposed plan is a deliberate and tactical tool.  Continuing to implement the growing needs of our community is difficult by the many financial constraints facing Windsor Heights for the foreseeable future.  Thus, the necessity to increase the tax levy to accommodate the goals, consider the tax assessment finance options, and increasing economic development opportunities in order to increase the tax base.  If those can be accomplished throughout the term of the plan, it is reasonable to evaluate the levy rate.   With implementation, the City will see an increase in value and can cautiously move forward on additional policies and programs that can make Windsor Heights even more competitive and grow our economy.  Continued investment is a key factor to support our core values.

The CIP process is intended to provide a format for departments and utilities to submit projects to the City Administrator and City Council while providing an objective means for reviewing and ranking capital projects. The first year of the capital improvement program will be included as part of the budget submitted for Council approval in March, 2017. The first three (3) years of the program also determines the amount of infrastructure bonds and other debt instruments to be issued over the upcoming year(s).

Work on the five year proposed Capital Improvement Plan for calendar year 2017-2021 has progressed on schedule to a point where information about projects and the corresponding financial plan are now ready for presentation to the City Council for approval.

Notable observations about the 2017-2021 CIP include:

  • The 2017-21 CIP responds to the City’s strategic goal session from January 2016.
  • Being strong fiscal stewards by offering a plan that increases the City’s debt service levy from $1.48 to $3.00 for non-referendum projects, realizing the current City’s debt capacity does not provide any (zero) capacity to do any new infrastructure improvements for the next three (3) years.
  • The Plan proposes a 50/50 cost share for new sidewalk projects, which will be assessed to property owners on both sides of the street over a period of five years.
  • With the new certainties of less state and federal resources, the City will continue to look for additional partnerships with neighboring cities for joint projects that are mutually beneficial.
  • An emphasis on maintaining the City’s infrastructure for streets, trail, stormwater management and underground utilities.
  1. 3 major Complete Street Reconstruction Projects, including streets, water, sanitary, storm and sidewalks
  2. 4 Sidewalks to Schools Projects
  3. 3 Trail/Trail Hub Projects
  4. 30 Stormwater intakes replaced
  5. University Avenue Redesign and Streetscape
  6. Accomplishing 7/24 or 30% of the comprehensive project list
  7. Retrofitting approximately 26 blocks of Water Main throughout the community
  8. Accomplishing 13/17 or 76% of Des Moines Water Works project list for Windsor Heights
  9. 3 major Water Main Reconstruction Projects
  10. Public Works Facility and Parking Lot Repairs
  11. Lions Park Parking Lot Replaced
  12. Approximately 10 blocks of Crack and Seat/Overlay throughout the community

Combined with the City Council’s strategic planning efforts and prioritization by several committees, staff, and professional consultants from Des Moines Water Works, the Urbandale Windsor Heights Sanitary District, City Attorney and Financial Advisors, the annual CIP planning

process provides an overall capital program. The process includes the establishment of a capital financing strategy, which involves major decisions and long-term commitments responsive to the purposes of limiting the cost of providing capital infrastructure and equipment while meeting the community’s needs; ensures financial strength and flexibility in the future; strengthens the City of Windsor Heights’s bond rating and the local community. 

I am pleased to forward for your review the attached set of CIP information documents including

Budget Timeline, Master Plan, 20 year Actions on Walkability, City CIP Priority List, Project Details and Opinions of Probable Costs, Des Moines Water Works CIP summary, Debt Projections and Debt Service Levy Impacts provided by Independent Public Advisors, Sidewalk Project Timeline, including Assessment and GO Bonding, Sidewalk Assessment estimates per parcel per street, plan maps per year, a comprehensive five-year plan map and FY 2017-21 Capital CIP Questions and Answers (Q&A).

If we missed any questions or concerns that have not been answered herein, staff can add them and make them available to the public in short order. 

I look forward to our discussions regarding projects, timing, financing, and determining the scope of the 2017-2021 capital program.

Respectfully Submitted,


Elizabeth A. Hansen

City Administrator