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South Portland council poised to fast-track capital improvements

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South Portland council poised to fast-track capital improvements

SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council is poised to fast-track this year's Capital Improvement Plan so workers can take advantage of the early construction season.

Although the council typically approves the CIP in June, City Manager Jim Gailey asked to bump up that vote to Wednesday, April 21.

Gailey presented a $4.3 million CIP to the council at a workshop on Monday night. His proposal includes vehicle and equipment purchases, paving and other infrastructure projects.

Traditionally, the CIP has been funded through budget surpluses, but Gailey said economic conditions over the last few years have not properly funded the program.

While $800,000 in surplus funding is included, so is more than $2 million in sewer surplus, $690,000 in remaining CIP balances and $330,000 in general fund reserves.  

Most of the budget is allocated for environmental protection and public works/transportation, which are slated to receive more that $2.1 million and $1.4 million, respectively.

Public safety is allocated $400,000, general government $210,000, parks and open space $155,000, and $10,000 for cultural and recreational facilities.

While generally supportive of the CIP, Councilors Tom Blake and Patti Smith were concerned about plans to buy new furnaces for City Hall and the public works facility, and new windows for Central Fire Station. 

Blake and Smith said the council will soon be asked to consider hiring an outside consultant to conduct a comprehensive energy audit, which would be paid for by savings achieved through energy-efficient upgrades. 

"I want to make sure we don't jump the gun and beat the experts," Blake said.

Councilors ultimately decided to leave the proposals in the plan when Gailey said no purchases would be made without first checking with consultants, who have already audited the school buildings.

Gailey also proposed a $600,00 paving program, which the council seemed interested in increasing to $725,000 by adding sewer reserve and tax increment financing funds, for this coming season.

Gailey said he would like to begin paving in May because more than 150 streets are in critical condition. To get caught up on street maintenance, he also floated the idea of eventually putting a $3 million road bond to voters. 

"We're losing the edge on our roads and it's showing," Gailey said.

Mayor Tom Coward agreed, calling the CIP a good down payment. "The more this (allocation) goes up, the happier I am," he said.

The Mill Creek transit hub, which would consolidate all bus stops in Knightville-Mill Creek into a heated and covered facility behind City Hall with bike racks, benches and maps, was allocated $50,000.

The CIP also includes $93,000 for new recycling bins, since those annual costs were removed from the operating budget.

The proposed CIP is part of a seven-year plan, which calls for $8.6 million in spending in 2012 and $7.6 million in 2013.

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