The town is continuing to plan ahead for large capital needs.
Galen Stearns, Town Administrator, and Susan Hickey, Chief Financial Officer, presented the Capital Improvement Plan to the Planning Board at its Wednesday, Feb. 18 meeting. The updated plan is for years 2016 to 2021.
In accordance with the Town Charter, Section 9:8, the plan is to be presented to the Planning Board each year in February, followed by presentation to the Town Council by March 1.
Hickey said the process begins with meeting with department heads who submit requests. “We look at the funding levels for each department,” she said, adding, “This schedule is consistent with what we have submitted to you for the past two years.”
Highlights of the CIP for 2016 include $564,300 in proposed Capital Improvements requested by the Fire Department, including:
• $85,000 in facility improvements;
• $51,540 in equipment replacement;
• $300,000 in apparatus and vehicle replacement, including an ambulance and assistant fire inspector vehicle;
• $32,000 in cardiac monitor replacements; and
• $95,670 in dispatch equipment replacements.
Requests from the Public Works department total $143,571, including:
• Street light conversions;
• Resurfacing the Marion Gerrish Community Center parking lot, to be offset by 50 percent from the Marion Gerrish board;
• Upgrades to Veterans Hall; and
• Miscellaneous equipment for Parks and Recreation needs.
The Police Department has no new capital requests.
The total of the requests for the General Fund is $707,871, Hickey said. The total from Water, Wastewater and Cable is $260,000, $320,000 and $45,000 respectively, which brings the total CIP to $1,332,871.
Hickey wrote in her memo that the Capital Improvement Program is funded solely by excess levels of unassigned fund balance, money in excess of the 13 percent of the general fund allowed by state law, as calculated by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration each fall.
She expressed concern that the Council’s efforts to reduce the tax rate would also “mean less turn-backs to fund balance at the end of the fiscal year,” resulting in “less funding to capital reserve programs.”
Planning Board Vice-Chair John O’Connor questioned an item under the Executive/Finance CIP section that lists an allocation for the proposed Exit 4-A of $5 million. O’Connor asked about the funds already spent on the Environmental Impact Study (EIS).
Hickey said that Exit 4-A expenses to this point have been drawn off the fund balance, and the town hasn’t needed to bond.
O’Connor asked Stearns what the status was of the EIS and Stearns said the study done in 2007 is out of date and the federal government has mandated that it needs to be redone.
“The state has taken the lead on that and we are in contract negotiations with them now,” he said. “The EIS is scheduled to be redone beginning this summer.”
Chairman Dave Granese asked about replacement of Engine 3 in the Fire Department. “I thought we were doing that this year, in addition to the ambulance,” he said.
Hickey said Engine 3 had been moved to the FY 17 Capital Improvement Plan.
Stearns noted that the replacement cycle for a fire engine is 20 years and Engine 3 is 17 years old.
In FY 20 a ladder truck is scheduled for replacement at an estimated cost of $1.5 million. Hickey said, “We will need to look at other large projects around that time, and if we have to bond, to get the best possible rate.”
Member Jim MacEachern warned against too much bonding. He said in past years, the town followed a policy of not bonding until a previous bond was paid off. “When something came due, we’d plan the next thing,” he said.
Michael Fairbanks, Town Council representative to the Planning Board, asked when town water and sewer would be extended to the remainder of Route 28 South. It was recently extended part way up the road.
“That is beyond this plan, it’s 6 to 10 years out,” Hickey said.