, Newburyport, MA

December 4, 2013

Selectman proposes changes to CPC


---- — NEWBURY — Selectmen are considering the need to revamp the make-up and responsibilities of the Capital Planning Committee (CPC).

At a meeting last week, Selectman Michael Bulgaris suggested raising the dollar-limit requirement that triggers the need for a proposed project to undergo CPC review from $10,000 to $50,000, or even $100,000. He’d also like to see the make-up of the committee changed to replace one of two members of the Finance Committee with a member of the Board of Selectmen.

At Annual Town Meeting in 2007 voters adopted a CPC bylaw that calls for a panel consisting of two members of the Finance Committee, the town administrator, and two at-large registered voters who are appointed by the selectmen.

CPC is tasked with developing a long-range planning program for municipal capital improvements, and evaluating and prioritizing projects that involve major, non-reoccurring tangible assets that have a useful life of at least five years and cost more than $10,000.

The Planning Committee is specifically concerned with physical facilities such as land and buildings, or pieces of equipment that require a relatively large investment.

The other selectmen agreed that there needs to be a better definition of “capital improvement,” but felt tying the review trigger to the state’s $25,000 limit made more sense than higher amounts suggested by Bulgaris.

Selectmen also felt an adjustment in the bylaw’s wording was needed to clarify that the CPC is strictly an advisory board and is not legally authorized to prohibit a proposed project from coming to Town Meeting floor.

According to the Capital Improvements program manual for the Town of Newbury, “No appropriation shall be voted for a capital improvement requested by a department, board or commission unless the proposed capital improvement is considered in the committee’s report, or the committee shall first have submitted a report to the Board of Selectmen explaining the omission.”

Other business

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Town Administrator Tracy Blais told selectmen she had heard from some residents, and even a few town officials, expressing surprise over a recent article in the Daily News about the results of a feasibility study to identify and offer possible solutions for space and programming needs within the public safety departments and Town Hall.

This is not a new issue, Blais said, noting that the results of an initial study of problems with the current police station was presented by the CPC at the Annual Town Meeting back in 2012 and the topic has been discussed numerous times at public meetings, including the Board of Selectmen, over the last year.

The CPC report, dated May 8, 2012, offers a detailed look into the Police Department’s shortcomings and needs. Five steps to address the needs are recommended; a sample estimate of $3.14 million for a new police station is provided; and a variety of possible sites to consider for development are mentioned.

With a recommendation from the Site Selection Committee, the Public Safety Complex Committee is now investigating the possibility of a $10.5 million project that would solve space and programming issues in the police, fire, and emergency management departments and also improve operations at the Town Hall.

A preliminary building assessment analysis issued last month by CSS Architects, Inc. and MacRitchie Engineering, Inc. provides a conceptual design for the proposed plan that brings the town’s public safety functions under one roof by building a 21,500 square foot complex on two parcels currently owned by Protection Fire Company No. 2. The basement of the Town Hall, which currently houses the police department, would then be revamped to accommodate space needs for other departments.

Voters at Town Meeting next May could be asked to take the next step by funding design services for a potential project. But the planning committee intends to hold informational workshops for the public next spring prior to any vote.

Blais also informed selectmen that she was notified that the employees of the highway department are taking steps to form a union.

Also, the Beachcoma restaurant got approved to have live music from 8 p.m. to midnight on New Year’s Eve and selectmen approved all requests from local businesses for liquor license renewals.

Selectmen acknowledged receipt $27,671 representing the 3rd quarter PEG Access Support payment from the town’s cable company; Police Chief Michael Reilly was appointed Harbormaster and Brendan Stokes was made his assistant.

The board discussed briefly a proposed demolition delay bylaw and announced that the Community Preservation Coalition will make a presentation on CPA for the public at Town Hall on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.

Selectman Joe Story was not present for last Tuesday’s meeting.