NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 25, 2013

More money in stabilization fund is committee's top priority

Capital upgrades and replacements listed for town facilities

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Funneling $300,000 into the town’s stabilization account should be a top budget priority for the upcoming year, according to the Capital Improvements Committee.

CIC Chairman Dick Preble presented his panel’s annual priorities report to selectmen on Wednesday. Each year the committee reviews with department heads their requests for capital expenditures in the upcoming fiscal year. The committee uses established litmus tests to score and prioritize the projects. A total of nine special article requests for Town Meeting were reviewed by the CIC.

But this year the CIC has placed funding the account set aside to cover capital upgrades and replacements at the top of the priority list, ahead of any specific departmental requests. Preble explained that the additional funding is needed to start addressing needs identified within town facilities as identified by Gary Bill, director of Public Works.

Selectman Glenn Kemper pushed for a vote by his board to fully support the CIC recommendation; however, Chairman Bert Knowles suggested accepting it as a “ target figure” but holding off on a formal recommendation until after selectmen meet with the Finance Committee to more fully discuss the budget.

In Bill’s report the town now has a list of “all the buildings and when they will need to have money spent on them to keep them in good repair,” Preble said, adding, “It’s probably something we should have done before this — but it is here now.”

Bill’s list also indicates the year that specific work has been performed previously on the buildings, something that, until now, had not been available in one comprehensive report. While the CIC acknowledges that some of the items on the list fall more into the maintenance category, they all have a life expectancy of over five years and a price tag of over $10,000, which is how the CIC defines a capital improvement.

As part of the report a chart of the future facilities expenses identifies roofing, siding, paint, heating, cooling, interior, windows and other miscellaneous needs for each site and the year when taxpayers can expect to have to fund them.

For example, the 1910 Town Office Building has a new heating system, and roofing and siding upgrades that are five and six years old, respectively. But it will likely need its floors painted to the tune of $40,000 in 2014; a $20,000 paint job in 2016; a $75,000 improvement to the cooling system in 2018; and $60,000 for windows in 2020.

Other facilities identified in the report are Action Cove Playground, Town Annex, Town Apartment House, Community Bandstand, DPW Building, Garden Street Fire Station, GAR Memorial Library, Highway Department Salt and Sand Shed, DPW Garage, Mill Pond Recreation Building, Park and Recreation Building, Public Safety Complex and Old Town Hall.

“It was the consensus of the committee that it’s better to have a plan for these items rather than expecting that they will be done with funds in the departments’ budgets,” Preble said.

Future expenses for the concession stand on Cammett Field, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Park and Recreation Department, and the Page Elementary School, which has it own capital plan in place through the regional school district, were not delineated in Bill’s report.

Other special article requests were prioritized as follows in the CIC report:

Priority #1 — $20,000 to replace water meters for the Water Department (Funding from the Water Department Free Cash Account).

Priority #2 — $59,000 for a roadside mower to replace the town’s 14-year-old model (Stabilization Fund).

Priority #3 — $182,840 for a new 4-wheel drive loader for the DPW (Stabilization Fund).

Priority # 4 — $33,912 to replace carpet in the Annex and 1910 Town Office Building (Stabilization Fund).

Priority # 5 — $175,000 for road and sidewalk improvements, with a portion going to maintain roads identified in the 5-Year Road Improvement Plan and the rest used to repair existing sidewalks along Main Street (Free Cash) .

A request to replace the Mill Pond Building roof will hopefully be covered by money from the Community Preservation Account and requests for funds to repair the Garden Street Fire Station, a zero turn mower and repairs to the fire department tower truck were withdrawn.