City lays out capital improvement priorities

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WESTBROOK — After skipping a year of capital improvements for the city, City Administrator Jerre Bryant has laid out a two-year, $10.3 million plan to upgrade infrastructure, buildings and equipment and to further economic and community development projects.

The plan covers more than 60 projects to be funded through a variety of sources: $3.9 million through grants (38 percent), $3.8 million through bonding (38 percent), close to $1.6 million in available reserves (16 percent) and close to $1 million through short-term lease purchases.

“I am pleased it is relatively aggressive in the infrastructure category because we have been able to leverage significant state and federal funding, and it tries to address our facilities and equipment, all of which are aging and will require some sort of replacement or upgrade,” Bryant said.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to review the plan following the March 18 City Council meeting. First reading on the plan could happen as early as April 1.

For building and grounds improvements, the plan includes a space needs assessment, kitchen improvements, a new HVAC system and flooring upgrade at the Public Safety Building; renovating the bathhouse and other work at the Cornelia Warren Outdoor Pool; facility upgrades at the Prides Corner Fire Station; design work for the repurposing of before- and after-school space and improved ADA access at the Westbrook Community Center; and several athletic facility improvements.

The top priority for the community services department is the design work.

“Updates to this portion of the building are long overdue,” said Greg Post, acting community services director. “The plan is to not only make improvements to the existing wing, but to expand and improve the overall use of the space. This would allow us to expand capacity, offer more programming and generate additional revenue.

Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte said reinvestment in the Public Safety Building is needed.

“If we don’t invest in our buildings, much like our own homes, the cost for repair over time only increases exponentially,” he said.

A number of vehicles are designated for replacement in the capital improvement plan, including either Engine 1 or Engine 2, a street sweeper, a loader with plow, tandem axle snow plow, single-axle dump truck, bucket truck, catch basin cleaner, loader, sidewalk plow, utility truck,  three half-ton pickup trucks, asphalt paver, one-ton pick-up truck, chipper and Paco pickup truck and a facilities maintenance van.

Turcotte said the department had typically replaced a fire engine after 20 years of service (15 years as a primary responder and five as reserve). But there may be a need now to replace an engine after 15 years of service because of “the mileage (and) engine hours” due to increased calls for service, he said.

Turcotte said while all updates to facilities and equipment are important, his top priority in the capital improvement plan is the self-contained breathing apparatus equipment. Existing equipment was purchased in 2004 and is coming up to the end of its 15-year recommended lifespan, he said.

A number of public safety equipment improvements are listed in the plan, including replacement of the police cruiser video system and criminal investigation video recording system; replacement of the self-contained breathing apparatus equipment and accident reconstruction equipment, as well as money for seven Tasers and replacement of two police cruisers.

Police Chief Janine Roberts said her top capital improvement focus is the replacement of the cruiser video system, which would cover 13 new cameras and a server to store the video.

The current system, she said, was purchased with federal grant funding more than six years ago, is aging and no longer covered by warranty.

In terms of economic and community development, the plan includes grant-funded redesigns of Westbrook Common on Main Street, the Cornelia Warren Four Season Rink on Lincoln Street and the Cornelia Warren Outdoor Recreation Area behind 489 Main St. It also covers another round of money for the downtown facade program and a donation-funded revamp of the dog park on William Clarke Drive.

The plan includes the city picking up a quarter of the improvement work on William Clarke Drive between Mechanic Street and Conant Road, and half of the costs for paving projects on Cumberland Street,  the Cumberland Mills intersection and Stroudwater Street and reconstruction of the Saco Street retaining wall. The plan would also address replacement of the Brown Street culvert.

Despite bonding $3.8 million through the two-year capital improvement plan, Bryant said the city’s municipal general fund debt will reduce by close to 19 percent from $2.8 million to $2.2 million.

Taking a year off, Bryant said, may have been “prudent” because it allowed time for the city to pay off some of its debts and find new revenue streams for capital improvement projects.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

Conducting a space needs assessment at the Public Safety Building on Main Street, as well as upgrades to its kitchen, heating and cooling system, flooring, lighting and server room, are some of the items included in the city’s recently unveiled capital improvement plan.

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