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Service monument, Comp Plan to be funded in South Portland's capital improvement budget

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Service monument, Comp Plan to be funded in South Portland's capital improvement budget

SOUTH PORTLAND — A monument honoring military service members planned for Mill Creek Park and citywide comprehensive planning efforts would would get a total $50,000 in city funding under the proposed $7.9 million capital improvements budget for fiscal 2010.

Environmental protection, public works and transportation are the biggest components of the budget, accounting for $6.8 million. 

City councilors, however, spent most of Tuesday's CIP discussion talking about a $20,000 line item for the service monument for Mill Creek Park. One councilor questioned the spending priorities in light of the recent layoffs of five city employees. 

Brian Hanlon, a member of the monument committee, said the group needs a financial commitment from the city so it can begin fundraising for the project.

"It's a credibility thing," Hanlon said. "You have to demonstrate your credibility by putting some money behind this project."

The city agreed in 2007 to donate a parcel of city-owned land for the monument as a concession to residents who were illegally hanging yellow ribbons symbolizing support for the troops on utility poles. 

"I thought we demonstrated our commitment by donating the land," Councilor Jim Hughes said. 

Although the monument was originally estimated to cost upwards of $100,000, Officer Kevin Battle, the group's chairman, said the cost has been whittled down to about $60,000.

Meanwhile, the group has only raised $6,000 over the last year, City Manager Jim Gailey said. 

Councilors agreed to leave the line item in the budget, but would only allow the money to be spent if the group can raise the remaining balance. Councilors said they believe that offering a matching donation would ensure the city doesn't become the driving force behind the project. 

"Sometimes we're the ones that kick things to a start and don't always have the momentum we think we have," Councilor Linda Boudreau said. "It helps with your fundraising and gives people an incentive to donate."

Meanwhile, Councilor Jim Soule continued his criticism of the layoffs of five city employees. Soule, who supported the monument allocation, said he could identify nearly $300,000 of nonessential spending in the CIP budget that could be used to bring back the employees. But Mayor Tom Blake said CIP funds need to be invested in city infrastructure projects, including $30,000 for the West End Trails project, which seeks to build trails and sidewalks.

"These are improvements we need to make," Blake said. "If we don't invest in our community it will erode so badly that we can't come back and fix it."

Some of the big-ticket CIP items include $350,000 for street paving; $193,600 for public transportation hub in Mill Creek; $147,000 for improvements to Foden Road and Gannett Drive; $80,000 to replace sidewalks and $30,000 for roof repairs at the main library. There is also $5 million budgeted for the upgrade of the Long Creek pump station, which the city hopes to recover in federal stimulus funds.

The council is expected to vote on the CIP budget on Monday, June 1.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net