Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Mason looks up the road

City to examine long-range project hopes

By Erica Solvig
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - From widening major thoroughfares to building two fire stations, Greater Cincinnati's fastest-growing city is starting to set priorities for capital improvements it wants to make over the next 20 years.

Over the next several months, council will be spending work sessions discussing the wish list of 300-plus projects. Each month will likely focus on a different topic, such as roads or parks, Mayor Peter Beck said.

The city expects to continue working on the list until well into next year. But, in the end, city officials should have a guide on how to tackle the more than $430 million worth of community investments.

"We're at the first step of the process where we cast the net as wide as possible," Assistant City Manager Eric Hansen said. "There's not a rush on it. Some (projects) are in the pipeline, but there's no urgency. It's got a life of its own."

For Mason, this could prove to be a vital venture because capital improvements are where the city invests the most of its money. In 2003, they were about half of the total expenses, with personnel and operating costs rounding out the rest, according to city figures.

In the late 1990s, the city developed a five-year projection that identified about $86 million in projects. The list the city is now working on forecasts further into the future and is more comprehensive.

Mason's population grew from 22,060 people in 2000 to 27,308 in 2003, the U.S. Census estimates.

The new list will help decide which grants to pursue and will match with other master plans, such as the one being worked on for city-owned parkland, Hansen said. But if an opportunity presents itself - such as was the case when a partnership with the Mason school district allowed the city to save money on a community center - a project may move up on the priority list.

Hansen cautions that the list is not set to a timetable. And in the future, the city will likely have to take another look because new projects might pop up or because priorities may change.

"The whole thing is very fluid," Hansen said. "It's never done."


E-mail esolvig@enquirer.com

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