Christie Fields park playground

The playground at Christie Fields sits unused and boarded up Tuesday in Bozeman. The city hopes to have funds approved to revamp the playground equipment at multiple parks around Bozeman.

The city of Bozeman plans to spend $174 million on major projects over the next five years. That includes building out streets, updating city equipment and giving more attention to city parks.

On Monday, Bozeman city commissioners approved a capital improvements plan that lays out the top-dollar projects to come.

“Roughly a third of our budget is spent on capital improvements,” Mayor Chris Mehl said. “... It’s a significant, significant amount.”

Top-dollar means anything the city plans to do with a price tag beyond $25,000.

“This capital improvement plan involves every department in the city,” Commissioner Terry Cunningham said. “Difficult decisions are made about how we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars.”

The city updates the five-year roadmap annually. Each city department lays out what they need or want in the near future and commissioners spend months whittling those requests down. This time around, that work started in November.

The projects in the 400-page plan aren’t set in stone — each depends on whether the money comes through for the year they’re planned.

“We take this as the first part of building our budget,” said Kristin Donald, the city’s finance director.

Some of the projects on the list reflect new city goals, like the commission’s recent declaration of broadband as essential city infrastructure. There’s $180,000 expected to go toward fiber optic conduit and vaults scattered over five years that would give the high-speed internet system a chance to take root across Bozeman.

The plan primarily sticks to making sure the city functions. One of the biggest ticket-items includes more than $10 million put toward major road construction, like improving the intersection at Manley Road and Griffin Drive.

There’s also day-to-day stuff, like replacing vehicles and updating gear for police and firefighters.

A portion of this year’s plan hinges on voter approval of a new parks and trails district.

Nearly $3 million of the more than $5.3 million of projects planned for parks in the next five years would come from a parks and trails district the city plans to put before voters this spring.

The city has estimated the cost of its park maintenance backlog in the millions, including work like replacing bridges, old playground equipment and repairing park shelters. Commissioners have said they want to boost the city’s park upkeep, but there’s not enough money on hand to do that.

“This capital improvement plan is built upon on the assumption that the parks improvement district is going to pass,” Cunningham said. “If the parks improvement district does not pass, we have to come back and we have to rethink all these assumptions.”

The plan approved this week outlines $86 million worth of projects that aren’t yet attached to a timeline. That includes a fourth fire station, which the Bozeman Fire Department’s master plan adopted in 2017 predicted the city’s population will eventually call for.

Cunningham said there’s millions-worth of future projects not yet on the list.

“These are actual shocks that are going to happen as a result of growth, as a result of infrastructure timing out,” he said. “We have to face this as a commission, as a city, head on.”

He said that means deciding where the money will come from.

“And that is a discussion to be continued,” Cunningham said.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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