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Mayor John Cooper releases capital spending plan, includes transportation and education improvements

Plans to borrow money to pay for projects
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Posted at 1:44 PM, Oct 22, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville Mayor John Cooper has released his $568 million capital spending plan and nearly half of it would go towards education and transportation improvements.

Cooper said he proposes to borrow money to pay for the proposals, in the form of 30-year bonds — a move that not all Metro councilmembers agree with.

Cooper’s office released details of the plan on Friday, saying it also includes a record $85 million for Metro Parks to open access to 60-plus acres of neighborhood green space. It would also fund major projects at sites like the Nashville Zoo and along the Cumberland riverfront.

“Nashville’s population increased by nearly a hundred-thousand residents in the last decade - we’re a growing city with growing needs,” Mayor Cooper said. “We are addressing our growth in a smart, focused way, so that Nashville continues to work for everyone.”

The mayor’s office said the plan includes affordable housing and $20 million for the recovery of Second Avenue. It would also fund a second round of community projects under the “citizen-driven participatory budgeting initiative,” which the mayor’s office launched earlier this year.

According to a release, it would also launch a 14-acre campus to serve nearly 80,000 young people and their families annually — something the mayor's office says has been "long-championed" by Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway.

Cooper pointed to currently low interest rates in defending his plan to borrow money to pay for the proposals, noting that Nashville's debt would slightly increase as a result.

"The great thing is, interest rates are like the lowest ever, so if you're going to make investments in the city, this is the time to do it because of the low interest rates," Cooper said.

News of Cooper's plan to borrow money didn't sit well with Metro Councilman At-large Steve Glover.

"We owe way too much money, we're one of the highest debt ratio cities in the entire country," Glover said. "To just keep borrowing and borrowing because interest rates are low, it just doesn't make sense to me."

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HERE’S A BREAKDOWN OF THE PLAN:

EDUCATION: $134 million to fund five new schools and create “better facilities” citywide.

The mayor’s office said the work on four new or renovated elementary schools at Antioch, Percy Priest, Haywood, and Paragon Mills would help get students out of portable classrooms.

$29 million completes the new Hillwood High School in Bellevue for an August 2023 opening.

The plan also fully funds Metro Schools’ priority requests of $85 million for repairs and upkeep at more than 100 facilities citywide — including projects like playground fixes, computer replacements and new buses.

CITY ESSENTIALS, INCLUDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING: $72 million

$5 million of that would “enhance affordable housing initiatives” through the Metro Development and Housing Agency.

Investments will also help fund:

  • “A new Fire Station No. 25 in North Nashville”
  • “A first responder training academy for fire and police”
  • “Projects to mitigate stormwater flooding”
  • “Repairs and upgrades at Metro Headstart early education facilities”
  • “Library investments, including facility improvements at Nashville Public Library’s flagship location at 615 Church Street”

There are also funds set aside to invest in and expand the Global Mall in Southeast Nashville, which houses the Southeast branch of Nashville Public Library, the Southeast Community Center and the publicly-owned Ford Ice Center.

$22 million would help “create a cohesive Nashville Fairgrounds, with ADA accessibility, utility work, road improvements and stormwater improvements. The investment includes funding for a public plaza in the center of the Fairgrounds and an avenue that better connects Fair Park to Nashville’s new soccer stadium and other Fairgrounds facilities.”

TRANSPORTATION: $141 million to leverage up to $199 million in grants

$2 million of the budget would go to a Transportation Management Center to “reduce drive times by better coordinating traffic signals.” Another $5 million would go toward advances in lighting, crosswalk and other safety improvements, which Cooper highlighted in his “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic and pedestrian deaths.

The mayor’s office said other improvements include:

  • “25 traffic calming projects on residential streets”
  • “Paving roughly 285 lane miles of roadway”
  • “Repairing bridges and culverts at 61 sites”
  • “Upgrades to bus stops and shelters”
  • “Replacing 19 buses, plus funds to run more buses during peak ridership hours”
  • “New sidewalks, sidewalk repairs and new bikeways”

“SERVING YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR FAMILIES"

$30 million would go toward a new, 14-acre campus for young people and their families. The future space on Brick Church Pike would be home to green space, sports facilities and Davidson County’s Juvenile Court — and would be near public transit and community organizations.

GREEN SPACE ACCESS:

$30 million to increase access to public green space by 60-plus acres — starting with a new city park. $1 million would fund a master plan and early design for just under 10 acres off Tusculum Road in Antioch.

$1.75 million would increase access to 53 acres of park space in Trinity Hills.

The plan also includes investments to:

  • “Grow Nashville’s greenways network”
  • “Complete construction on the long-awaited, new Old Hickory Community Center”
  • “Repair the Napier Community Center swimming pool in North Nashville”
  • “Add four acres to the Lockeland Springs Park in East Nashville”
  • “Build a community meeting and events space at Two Rivers Park in Donelson”

Another $1 million would fund additional repairs at historic Fort Negley.

Additionally, $15 million would go towards the Nashville Zoo and $3 million would go towards creating another riverfront park — this one at First Avenue and Gay Street.

The mayor’s office also said funds to purchase a historic site and design a park at 88 Hermitage Avenue will “create access to more green space for an estimated 18,000 downtown residents. It also sets the stage for future city assets like a waterfront boating and recreation area and mixed-use, affordable housing.”

SECOND AVENUE:

$20 million to rebuild and restore Second Avenue following the Christmas Day bombing.