Capital Improvement Plan Filed by City Manager – $6 Million Available for Projects

Chelsea Record Staff

Twenty-two projects totaling nearly six million dollars  in expenditures have been approved for completion as part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, City Manager Jay Ash announced Wednesday.

The investment plan Ash has filed for FY’12 directs $5,971,000 to 22 various projects, and reduces borrowing impacting the City’s annual budget by 75% of what had been initially projected.  Instead of incurring debt and paying interest charges over the ten-year life of much of that debt, Ash is advancing a plan that “He’s recommending we spend $1,250,000 out of Free Cash to save $250,000 in interest charges over the life of what we would have borrowed.  Yes, we’ll lose $50,000 or so on the interest that Free Cash would have generated, but saving a net of $200,000 sounds like a smart investment and something we should work hard to replicate on a yearly basis,” said Councillor Brian Hatleberg, the Council’s Chairman of the Subcommittee on Finance which pays for many of the projects out of the City’s Free Cash.

The Capital Improvement Plan is titled, “Stewardship.”

“On the federal level, we hear about the need to invest in the country’s future, but that mounting deficits are threatening that future.  Here, we’re figuring out how to make investments in our roadways, buildings, parks and equipment, while actually reducing our dependency on borrowing and lowering our overall debt levels,” said Ash.

“In my opinion, that’s great stewardship and something that all of us involved in accepting the responsibility of managing this community can be proud of,” added Ash, whose responsibility it is to file a capital plan annually.

The FY’12 plan provides for the acquisition of three police cruisers, a fire staff car and three public works trucks.  Public building improvements planned include replacements of portions or all of the roofs at the Senior Center and City Yard, upgrades to carpeting in the Library and improvements to the security system and main doors of City Hall

“Those are all important projects that allow us to respond to community needs by allowing our staff to get out to people and by allowing people to come visit us,” commented City Councillor Calvin Brown.  “This winter has been particularly tough on our DPW snow fighting vehicles, so by spending soon we can be better The CIP’s biggest ticket items include roadway improvements and water and sewer work.  The plan envisions work supporting the new developments in the Everett Avenue Urban Renewal District to include the widening of the Everett Avenue and Spruce Street intersection and the complete reconstruction of portions of Spruce, Sixth, Heard and Maple Streets.  Other roadway improvements include surface repairs on portions of Cherry Street, Clark Avenue and Shawmut Street.  Subsurface work on portions of Garfield Avenue and lower Broadway should improve the reliability of water and sewer functions and result “We’re planning on spending nearly $5 million on new streets and sidewalks and all that is underneath them.  That’s an important undertaking for us to promote and a reason why we all fret so much over having our financial house in order. Making sound decisions on balancing our budgets ensures we have the wherewithal to spend on capital improvements.  It’s great to see us doing all of that,” exclaimed Council President Marilyn Vega Torres.

Part of the $5 million is for a study to begin the design work in reconstructing Broadway.  City officials estimate the construction project could cost as much as $10 million or more, so the $325,000 being spent on promoting a better design is well worth it to at least one Councillor.

“When you’re going to spend that kind of money on a major project like Broadway, getting the design right means saving a ton of money on change orders and other unanticipated things that can happen during the construction. I’m pleased to see the Broadway project queued up and being so thoughtfully planned, commented Councillor Richard Maronski.

Ash said that the Broadway project, improvements around the urban renewal area, local street paving and so much more that is being done, like funding another new park project, relies heavily on State grants.

“About $2.3 million in this CIP and hopefully as much as $5-$8 million of the future Broadway project will come from State funding.  We’re lucky to have Representatives Eugene O’Flaherty and Kathi-Anne Reinstein, along with

Senator Sal DiDomenico, fighting for us up on Beacon Hill to get that funding.

“They continue to deliver big-time on the State grants and other funding that we really can’t do without,” advised Ash.

A portion of that $2.3 million will help improve pedestrian safety around the Williams School.

“I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that anything we can do to advance the betterment of the community, and especially make our streets safer for our kids walking to school, is a good thing.  We’re all happy to help,” informed Rep. O’Flaherty. In addition to the $2.3 million in anticipated State funding and $1.25 million in Free Cash, the plan calls for $300,000 from the City’s annual budget, $400,000 in general borrowing and $1.65 million in water and sewer bonding. “Yes, we’re spending a lot of money in tough financial times.  However, investments need to happen regularly or else the cost of inaction is even more expensive down the road.  We’re really thoughtful in how to budget this spending and can assure one and all that the City’s budget can handle this investment, and the public can continue to look forward to the results,” predicted Ash.

It is anticipated that the City Council will schedule a public hearing soon, before taking the matter up for a vote sometime in the early spring.  If approved, projects would be funded to begin July 1.

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