Hilliard leaders have the green light -- and the greenbacks -- to complete capital-improvements projects worth almost $20 million this year.

After an annual process believed to have taken longer than ever before, Hilliard City Council on Feb. 26 unanimously approved the administration's 2018 capital-improvements budget of $19.1 million.

"I'm pleased; council did a great job identifying projects important to us and the administration in turn funded these projects," council President Al Iosue said Feb. 27.

Councilman Les Carrier called the final CIP a "mixed bag" but said he is pleased with amendments to it.

"I think this was the longest it ever took (to approve a CIP) ... but we have the commitment we wanted and I feel good about that," Carrier said.

In past years, City Council has approved CIP projects before Jan. 1, but council members criticized city officials late last year for not presenting the CIP budget sooner for their consideration.

Carrier, Iosue and Councilman Nathan Painter each expressed concerns that projects too often were delayed, with each mentioning improvements to the Hilliard East Municipal Pool on Schirtzinger Road as an example.

A new spray pad has been installed at the East pool, as well as a new mechanical shed, a diving board and a "zero entry" -- a beach-like grade with no stairs -- for the main pool, said Steve Mazer, director of the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department.

The first phase of the improvements was about $700,000, he said.

However, funding for a new bath house, part of a second phase of improvements, was not included in the original 2018 CIP until an amendment was made.

"I'm pleased renovations to the bath house will (begin) this year," Carrier said.

Mazer said $120,000 was set aside in the CIP to design a new bath house and he is optimistic the estimated $1.5 million project will be bid late this year, with construction expected in 2019.

As usual, transportation accounted for the largest portion of the CIP budget at $13 million, or 68 percent of the budget.

"Transportation is always a concern for us. ... It's a quality-of-life issue for our residents," Iosue said.

Individual projects funded this year include design and utility relocation for improvements at Scioto Darby and Leppert roads ($7.8 million); the citywide street-rehabilitation program ($1.5 million); roundabout modifications ($631,000); design, utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition for Franklin Street improvements ($465,000); and design of Scioto Darby and Walcutt roads improvements ($240,000).

Public meetings will be held later this year to solicit input from residents on suggested improvements at Scioto Darby and Walcutt, after which the city will confer with Columbus leaders to determine their level of involvement in the project, said deputy city engineer Letty Schamp.

Walcutt Road south of Scioto Darby is in Columbus.

City Council already has approved a contract with American Structurepoint Inc. to perform the study.

Meanwhile, the appropriation for roundabout modifications is the first of what is expected to be a $1.4 million, three-year program, Schamp said.

Through 2015, accident rates at the pair of roundabouts on Main Street at Cemetery and Scioto Darby roads and the roundabout at Davidson Road and Britton Parkway were among the highest in Hilliard, according to a MORPC traffic study.

Of the $631,000 appropriated for the first phase, uses include $277,000 for construction, $150,000 for design, $50,000 for education and outreach, $20,000 for utility relocation and $10,000 for right-of-way acquisition, she said.

Construction work this year, at the two Main Street roundabouts only, is expected to include changes to ground signs, installation of overhead signs and "geometric shaping" at the Main Street and Scioto Darby roundabout, Schamp said.

Legislation is expected to be introduced March 12 for the city to enter into a professional-services contract with Burgess & Niple, the same firm that designed the roundabouts, for the modifications.

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