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June 4 is public hearing date for town's capital improvement plan

Date: 5/30/2012

May 30, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

AGAWAM — Should the deputy fire chief get a new vehicle? Does the Department of Public Works (DPW) really need a new mower?

Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on what improvements the town should make for the next five years during a public hearing on the proposed Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2013-17 (FY13-17) on June 4.

The hearing will take place during the regularly scheduled City Council meeting, slated for 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Roberta G. Doering School, 68 Main St.

Mayor Richard Cohen said the FY13 capital improvements budget is a bit more aggressive than in past years, thanks in part to an uptick in the town's economic growth. He said Agawam took in $2.7 million more in tax revenue this past year, primarily from the commercial sector. Because of this cushion, Cohen said he is proposing expenditures of $601,090 for general appropriations.

"This year we were fortunate to have new growth and I am using the new growth for one-time capital expenses [rather than the general operating fund] because next year the money may not be there," Cohen said.

Among this year's proposed general fund appropriations are $61,790 for new permit tracking software for the Building Inspector and Planning Departments — "this is a whole new system integrating the departments," Cohen said, and $25,000 for a town hall emergency generator — of which 75 percent is anticipated to be reimbursed through Federal Emergency Management Agency and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency grants. Proposed appropriations also include $75,000 to replace the heating and air conditioning system in the Police Department headquarters, $40,000 for Fire Department protective gear and $34,800 to replace the deputy fire chief's aging 1996 vehicle.

"In an effort to be prudent we want to get a vehicle that can tow the [department's rescue] boat because the [fire chief's] current vehicle is also deteriorating," Cohen said. "It is not the primary vehicle, but it would provide backup."

One of the largest appropriations — $200,000 — covers the lease for two new DPW dump trucks and initial payments for a new mower and CAT bucket loader. The budget also includes line items for street and sidewalk repairs, payments on former Hampden County land and expenditures from the Wastewater Fund, Water Fund and Municipal Golf Course enterprise funds.

Existing and projected bond costs for FY13 are listed as $2.9 million.

Projects proposed for FY14 include traffic light improvements and a new pool filtration system for the Junior High, and FY15 includes a feasibility study to renovate the Police Station, while FY16 and 17 include planned sidewalk extensions and traffic light improvements.

"The pool and the traffic lights would be done in phases," Cohen noted.

Bonding for FY14 is projected to increase approximately $266,000 because of town payments to supplement a Massachusetts School Building Authority Green Repair Program replacement of the Junior High School roof and heating and air conditioning system as well as proposed renovations to the Agawam High School lockers and bathrooms. The following years' bond costs are similar to FY13.

All of these projects, Cohen said, are proposals, and would be done, or not done, depending on the town's financial situation at the time.

"This is the best estimate and it is a five-year plan," Cohen said. "It can change, and it is based on the needs to maintain what we have and continue our services while still being mindful of our taxpayers."

Town Treasurer and Collector Laurel Placzek noted that, a few years ago, there had been a proposal to construct a new town hall in the town's Capital Improvement Program, which has now dropped off.

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