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Council, mayor work to draft new Capital Improvement Plan

Date: 1/6/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Since voting down Mayor Susan Dawson's proposed five year Capital Improvement Plan last year, the City Council and mayor's office has yet to solidify a new course of action.

On Jan. 20, the Council's Capital Improvement Budget Subcommittee will meet with Dawson to continue drafting a new fiscal year 2009-2013 (FY09-13) Capital Improvement Program for the council's consideration. Dawson's previous plan outlined the most pressing improvements at a cost of approximately $4.8 million, including the Feeding Hills Sewer Extension Project, road improvements and upgrades to town facilities.

"I'm going to continue to have regular meetings with the council [in order to draft a new plan]," Dawson told Reminder Publications. "I value the council's input and will look to them to help me design something that works well for the community."

The FY09 appropriations included $1.2 million for various capital projects including the high school autism room, four middle school classrooms, repairs to the James Clark Elementary School parking lot, street and sidewalk improvement, real estate reevaluation, Hampden County land acquisition and new equipment for the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Parks and Recreation Department and Fire Department.

Dawson noted that several of the projects have been completed including the parking lot repairs and high school autism classroom. She added that the middle school classrooms will be finished by the end of this fiscal year.

City Councilor Joe Mineo, also chair of the Capital Improvement Budget Subcommittee, said he voted in favor of the mayor's original plan; however, he is reconsidering all of the projects due to the economic downturn and perceived decrease in local aid.

"We're looking to take an eight to 10 percent decrease in funding and that will mean a lot," he said. "I just want to see what type of cuts we're having and play it by ear. I don't know what [projects] we can or can't do [at this point]."

Other capital improvements proposed include a new gym floor for Phelps Elementary School, Phase II of the Town Hall/Public Safety Complex, an all-weather track and bleachers for the School Department, Feeding Hills Sewer Extension Project Phases II-IV, a new roof for the junior high school, Robinson Park Elementary School Energy Management System and DPW facility energy improvements.

Dawson said one of her top priorities for FY10 is to ensure that energy management systems are improved at Robinson Park Elementary School and the DPW.

"As the town's fiscal watchdog, it is my responsibility to ensure that we keep the energy costs as low as possible," she added.

City Councilors George Bitzas and Paul Cavallo, also members of the Capital Improvement Budget Subcommittee, said they will continue to work with the mayor to ensure that a new plan is drafted that is economically viable and illustrates the town's prominent capital improvement needs.