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Capital investments maintain operations

Date: 4/22/2013

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — Mayor Richard Cohen submitted the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2014 -2018 on April 11, with a notable absence of any plans for major projects, but line items for many long-awaited improvements.

The general fund requests for 2014 and 2015 include improvements for Agawam High School, including the renovation of the bathrooms and locker rooms in a projected bond amount of $2 million, and the overhaul of the track facility for a projected bond amount of $2.35 million.

Cohen described the track project in the CIP. "An all weather track with field runways would greatly improve conditions while reducing maintenance costs. Drainage facilities would also be included. Wooden bleacher planks continue to rot and require replacement each year. This safety project would encompass sand blasting and painting the metal runners and replacing the wooden planks with aluminum," he said.

Also included in the CIP are projected bond request for the second and third phases of the Southwest Area Sewer Extension Project. At this time, the project is tabled indefinitely per a Dec. 3, 2012 vote of the City Council, to enable the councilors to research alternative, less costly options for residents.

"The CIP is a projection," Cohen said. "Just because an item is listed doesn't mean all these projects will go through. It [the creation of the CIP] was done with a lot of thought and concern for what the town can afford."

He continued, "Everything on there we need to operate the town efficiently. The goal is to maintain what we have and make sure we can provide the service residents have become accustomed to."

Cohen attributed the maintenance-focus of the CIP to the fact that many capital improvements have been completed over the past 10 years, including the construction of the public library and the creation of a full day kindergarten with modular classrooms.

The mayor referred to the creation of the CIP as an "ongoing process" that begins where he and the Town Treasurer/Collector Laurel Placzek meet with the department heads in November or December.

"The process is made possible by the cooperation of myself, the City Council, the School Committee, the department heads and the town staff," Cohen said. "I like to do things right. It's a process that's been in place and works very well — and it will continue to work well."

He added that his approach is a "frugal" one. Cohen said that improvements such as updated traffic signals, sidewalks and electrical systems are necessary for town operations.

Also included in the CIP for fiscal year 2014 is an energy system for the James Clark Elementary School at a projected cost of $135,000 and rooftop air conditioners for the Agawam Junior High School at a projected cost of $240,000.

Another appropriation for an upgrade to the town's permit tracking software is included at a projected cost of $70,000 divided between fiscal years 2014 and 2015.