NORFOLK -- An aging fountain in downtown Norfolk that's been an eyesore for years is being dug up. The work at Waterside Drive and St Paul's Boulevard is part of what the city calls kicking it up a notch. It has plans to create a new green area.
"This is our gateway," said Norfolk spokesperson Lori Crouch.
The city wants to make a better impression with people who come off of Interstate 264 every day as well as the thousands expected to visit for OpSail 2012 in June.
Back in 2010, the city told us money was too tight to invest in sprucing up the area. The city also hoped to attract a private partner to share the cost of doing something here. As of now, that hasn’t happened.
Officials tapped three different funds to pay for the project that was budgeted for $750,000 and will come in under that at about $550,000. The city wanted us to know the money being used to pay for the project cannot moved and used for other things.
Norfolk is facing a $7 million deficit and a school budget that's $15 million short. While city funding for schools has remained flat to slightly up over the past few years, state funding has dropped leaving a $50-million dollar budget gap in the past two years. School employees are in their fourth year without a raise.
So while the project’s cost may be small in the overall budget, was the money well spent?
Some people said they like seeing signs of progress.
"I think at some point you're going to have to spend the money to make this a place people want to come to," Dante Deangelis stated.
Others said the city should have other priorities, like education.
"I think teachers are one of the most important things we have and they definitely should be above that," said Meghan Regina.
Officials say the city manager is committed to trying to give raises to city employees but no promises can be made a this point. Budgets are still a work in progress.