Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle released today a 2011 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that empahasizes a new structure for the organization charged with planning. The proposed program deferred approximately $80 million worth of previously approved projects.
Preckwinkle said the road toward an efficient long-term financial planning starts with the County’s Capital Improvement Program.
“Responsible spending is a priority for my administration. Quite simply, this is a smarter Capital Improvement Program that utilizes scarce capital dollars more strategically. We’ve deferred non-essential items and reprioritized to fund critical projects that address life safety, public safety and supports the CCHHS strategic plan. We’re creating a well thought out and fiscally-responsible plan to preserve our infrastructure and provide better services to the people of Cook County,” she said.
On Dec.13, Preckwinkle issued her first executive order, imposing a moratorium on non-essential capital and professional service contracts.
This moratorium was a major initiative of the Preckwinkle’s transition report and represented an important first step in the overhaul of County spending strategies. Previously, a number of significant capital projects were underway without any consideration for long-term planning or a coordinated capital plan for approximately $500 million in planned projects.
“The moratorium allowed for a thoughtful review process. We used that opportunity to seek out wasteful spending and explore ways to change the way this process was done in the past,” Preckwinkle said.
As part of the President’s call for a moratorium on capital projects, the Bureau of Economic Development and Budget Office along with third party collaboration led by the Public Building Commission (PBC) analyzed capital planning processes and evaluate previously approved and newly identified capital projects.
Erin Lavin, Executive Director of the Public Building Commission, commended the President’s commitment to oversight and fiscal responsibility. “The Public Building Commission of Chicago was happy to partner with Cook County in a comprehensive review and prioritization of projects included in Cook County’s Capital Improvement Program. The holistic effort not only resulted in recommendations for the 2011 Capital Program but also serves a baseline from which the County can continue to develop a sound Capital Program.”
From the review process came several recommendations, included among them the need to be proactive and develop an assessment and scheduled maintenance regimen that will help mitigate the exorbitant costs (capital and operational) of deferred maintenance.
Maria Saldana, Director of the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, said the new CIP is different from last year’s in several ways.
“In the past, Cook County was operating almost entirely in a reactive approach – treating each project individually. Now, the CIP includes industry best practices, including a comprehensive Work Breakdown Structure that is representative of the recommendation to treat the collective project list as a holistic program,” said Saldana.
The CIP’s focus on program management utilizes a new system that allows the County, as well as the public, to clearly identify projects by location, operating agency and category, such as life safety; code/regulatory requirement; critical systems/risk of failure; and public safety.
“We’re also collaborating much more closely with the County Finance Department in the area of long-term planning,” Saldana said. “This will allow the County to strategically plan for the use of unspent bond proceeds of about $300 million over the next two years,” Saldana said.
Cook County’s Capital Improvement Program sets forth the plan for the design, construction and renovation of buildings and building systems to make them safe, functional, efficient and cost-effective for the delivery of services to the public. The CIP is produced by the Bureau of Economic Development with the approval of the President and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The Office of Capital Planning & Policy develops and provides day to day oversight of the Capital Improvements Program. This multi-year plan includes more than $680 million in proposed projects.
Over half of the CIP’s projects are connected to the Cook County Health and Hospitals System’s Strategic Plan. Ongoing projects there include the redevelopment of Cook County Hospital and the expansion of the Stroger Hospital parking garage.
The Program also directs $30 million toward spending that will improve energy efficiency. Cook County was the first governmental agency in Illinois to pass an ordinance requiring all new construction to be LEED-certified by the US Green Building Council.
Commissioner and Finance Chairman John Daley applauded Cook County’s Capital Improvement Program. “This is a positive step forward. The Administration has instituted a new process that provides for strategic prioritization of the capital investments on behalf of the people of Cook County. I am proud to support this initiative and I commend the President and her team on their leadership on this issue.”