The Murfreesboro City Council came together with various department personnel Thursday in a special meeting to consider capital improvement projects as part of 2012 bond issues.
Mayor Tommy Bragg opened the meeting by pointing out that the vast majority of city funds are utilized in providing transportation, public safety, recreation and schools.
"I don't think anyone can argue that these are not our priorities," he said. "Please keep that in mind as we consider capital improvements for 2012."
The following departments laid out plans for capital improvements:
• Engineering Department
City Engineer Chris Griffith said the second phase of the Maney Avenue improvement project, from East Main Street to Oaklands Historic House Museum, is the major outlay for this year.
Councilman Doug Young said he hoped the project would not be as intensive as the first phase from Broad to East Main streets.
"I assume that this second phase will not be such an engineering challenge as the first?" he asked.
Griffith said his department "should be able to knock it out over the winter" and that, unlike other projects, Maney Avenue lends itself well to cold weather construction because it has an existing road base.
• Fire Department
Roger Toombs said a master plan for firefighter training is being produced, as well as construction plans for more fire halls.
"We aren't having fires like we used to," City Manager Rob Lyons said. "That's certainly a great situation, but it means there are not as many chances for our firefighters to learn, which is why I have worked with Fire Department personnel to produce a more intensive firefighter training plan."
• Fleet Services Department
Councilman Shane McFarland asked Fleet Services Director Jack Hyatt to look into ways to further hide the parking lot adjacent to the Greenway, which is currently surrounded by a chain-link fence.
"That is pretty much the only chain-link fence on the Greenway," he said. "I get busted by constituents and friends regularly about how much of an eyesore it is for Greenway visitors, so is there any way to better screen than lot?"
Lyons took note of the issue, saying he would look at possibly adding more trees.
• Police Department
Police Chief Glenn Chrisman detailed several improvements, including full implementation of a previously approved recommendation to upgrade the department's two-way radio system from its current 1970s-era equipment.
The funds, totaling $4.25 million, will be utilized in purchasing the radios and building or upgrading three radio towers, which are required for proper broadcasting in the modern 700-800 megahertz frequency band.
The department will also replace outdated computers in its patrol cars with modern tablet-style mobile devices that will allow wireless communication and portability for officers at crime scenes and patrol calls.
A planned K-9 training facility and larger firing range will allow the department to train its officers and animals in-house, instead of being put on a six-month waiting list at Tullahoma's Arnold Engineering Development Center range or Metro Nashville's K-9 training center.
"Can we then lease out our facility to other departments?" Councilman Eddie Smotherman asked.
Chrisman responded that "could certainly be a possibility."
"Well, that could be a return on our investment," Smotherman added.
• Parks and Recreation Department
Parks and Recreation Director Lanny Goodwin is focusing capital improvement projects on land acquisition for additional park space in west Murfreesboro, which he said is sorely needed.
"There are 50,000 people living in that area now, which is a higher population than most cities," he said. "I am continually reminded by citizens that there is virtually no park space for those living west of the interstate."
He then outlined a wish list of additional park acreage totaling 410 acres, doubling the city's natural areas and park support facilities while halving acreage dedicated to golf facilities.
• Transportation Department
Transportation Director Dana Richardson said Rover Bus Service vehicles are in need of replacement.
The 16-passenger buses have more than 180,000 miles showing on their odometers, and the department will begin replacing them with 23-passenger models this year.
Lyons concluded the special meeting by advising the next round of capital-improvement bonding should take place quickly.
"We may want to accelerate borrowing requests in order to take advantage of historically low interest rates," he said.
The council then met in regular session, considering a rezoning request for acreage along County Farm Road and South Church Street, the site of a proposed Walmart.
A public hearing was conducted, with only one citizen voicing any opinion on the matter.
Gayle McFarland, no relation to Councilman Shane McFarland, simply raised questions regarding proper light pollution control and the preservation of mature trees which currently line the property.
Assistant City Planning Director Margaret Ann Ely assured her that city ordinances prohibit light pollution in excess of one candle power beyond property lines, and that the retention of mature trees will be an important consideration when site plans for the development later come before the planning commission and council.
The recommendation to rezone the 21.94 acres from a RS-15 district to commercial highway district passed unanimously.
Service Excellence Coordinator Shannon Logan then sought approval of rules and procedures for a new program to recognize city employees for "excellence in customer service."
Under the new program, employees who distinguish themselves as leaders in providing excellent customer service to the city residents will receive a certificate of commendation in their personnel file, recognition on Murfreesboro City Hall's Wall Of Fame, a "small" monetary reward, and an extra day of vacation leave for the year.
Logan's recommendation passed unanimously.