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Courthouse plans at top of council’s priority list

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The top priority for Fredericksburg over the next two years will be developing plans for the 160-year-old circuit courthouse that will be vacant when the new $35.4 million courthouse is built and the court moves.

The City Council met in a work session Wednesday night that completed the retreat the council began a few weeks ago to make a road map for city staff for the next two years.

Nine new initiatives and three new plans for studies were made priorities by the council, in addition to several initiatives that are already in progress.

The council began with a list of nearly 60 initiatives, all suggested by council members or city staff, and ranked them in order or importance. A list of nine studies was also narrowed to three to be done in the next two years.

The circuit courthouse was designed by James Renwick Jr., the architect known for designing several major buildings, including the Smithsonian Castle in Washington and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

It won’t be vacant until spring of 2014.

The second-highest priority on the council’s list was completing the design for Riverfront Park.

The park has been on the City Council’s radar since 2006, when the council first adopted goals related to developing a riverfront park.

There is $200,000 allocated in the fiscal 2013 budget for the park.

The park was started a few years ago, but the work was put on hold due to the downturn in the economy.

The council’s third priority is working on pursuing additional emergency medical service staffing to provide 24/7/365 advanced life-support capability.

This is something that could be phased in over time.

Currently, the Fredericksburg Fire Department operates two advanced life-support ambulances Monday through Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the city’s website.

Other priorities for the council include:

Making a historic preservation plan.

Working with the city’s Economic Development Authority to better position the city to take advantage of, identify and fund economic development opportunities.

Supporting and encouraging the city’s proposed Main Street Fredericksburg vision—a program that tries to develop thriving downtown business districts.

Expanding the community policing program to other neighborhoods and working with neighborhood groups.

Encouraging local spending and work on a city procurement policy revision.

Increasing regional efforts to leverage state grants and increase financial support of tourism efforts.

The council also identified three studies for staff to work on over the next two years.

The studies will all require external resources and subject-matter experts, but staff will have to manage and oversee the projects.

The ones the council identified as priorities were:

Developing and implementing a succession plan for all city departments.

Identifying needed water and sewer line replacements, updating the utilities master plan and constructing the line replacements.

Developing a parking strategic plan.

Other studies that were ranked lower were completing a feasibility study for a performing arts center, including a financial analysis; developing a master plan for city-owned properties; doing a city space needs analysis and master plan; and coming up with transportation and IT plans.

The next steps are for the city staff to review the prioritized initiatives and develop a work plan to present to the council.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413