Freeport capital spending plan remains largely intact

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FREEPORT — Councilors amended some of the town’s five-year capital plan at Tuesday’s public hearing, but most of it was left as originally written.

Councilors on April 7 didn’t comment on most of the articles of the plan, which includes spending almost $2.5 million in 2016 to repair and replace equipment, improve infrastructure, and spur economic development.

Three changes were made to the part of the plan about comprehensive town improvements. It proposed spending $685,000, or 28 percent of the 2016 total, on infrastructure improvements.  

As proposed by Councilor Kristina Egan, the School Street parking lot at Leon Gorman Park will no longer be paved under the capital plan, but will be kept in the town’s 20-year plan. Also, converting some parking lots to make them accessible to RVs will now happen in fiscal year 2018 instead of in 2016.

Egan also asked that $31,000 be added to fiscal year 2016 for improvements to drainage in South Freeport Village, and that $30,000 be removed from fiscal year 2017 for repairs to the area.

Two changes were made in repairs planned at municipal facilities. Councilors reduced the amount to be spent on replacing town windows from $100,000 to $30,000. They also reduced the annual contribution to a revaluation reserve, from $10,000 to $5,000.

Originally, $170,500, or 7 percent of the total, was proposed for repairs at municipal facilities. Of that, $30,000 would be used to replace garage floor drains at the Public Works Department with high density polyethylene material. Cables also must be replaced on a Public Works vehicle lift machine, and a radio repeater must be converted to Narrow Band System.

Other municipal facility improvements include upgrading computers, replacing floors at Town Hall and the library, improving a heat pump, and installing LED lighting. The town’s mowing tractor also needs replacement.

Councilor Andy Wellen unsuccessfully proposed making a change to the plans for the Fire Department, which account for 30 percent of the year’s costs, or $750,000. That money will be used to replace Engine 3, a 1988 Grumman Fire Cat Pumper that was supposed to be replaced in 2009. 

Wellen proposed waiting until fiscal year 2019 to buy a new fire truck, saying it would save money that could be used to offset taxes.

“There’s minimal downside to trying to get three more years out of Engine 3,” Wellen said.

None of the other councilors agreed and the motion didn’t pass. They said they didn’t want to risk firefighters being hurt if the truck were to break down or crash, since the truck’s seat belts are already damaged.

Also, Councilor Jim Hendricks said the town wouldn’t want the truck to break down when it is needed. He said a price can’t be put on a home destroyed by fire because a broken fire truck couldn’t get to the scene.

About $166,000 would be earmarked for the town’s “Destination Freeport” tax increment financing district, which Town Manager Peter Joseph in March said will help spur economic development and allow sidewalk improvements.

The TIF would also be used to help the Freeport Economic Development Corp., which Wellen opposed. He said the FEDC isn’t needed, and that Freeport should create an economic development department within the town government.

Wellen said he believes the FEDC favors the interests of businesses, not residents, and that it would be “more accountable” if run by the town. None of the other councilors agreed.

Members of the public didn’t either; two of the three people who spoke said they appreciate having the work done by FEDC. The other resident who spoke said he would like repairs to be done to the roads in South Freeport Village.

Councilors didn’t propose or make any changes to the parts of the plan involving the Police, Rescue, Public Works, and Solid Waste and Recycling departments, or to the parts about cable television, boards and committees.

For the Police Department, $88,000, or 3 percent of the total, would be used to replace two squad cars. The department is also wants to redesign and expand its locker room.

Replacing an ambulance for $196,000, or 8 percent of the total, is planned for the town’s Rescue Unit. According to the plan, the maintenance costs for the town’s 2005 ambulance are increasing and it would be better to replace the vehicle.

The Public Works Department needs $223,000, or 9 percent of the total, to replace a vehicle and repair equipment. A dump truck, a 2005 Sterling, needs to be replaced because of a “poor maintenance record” and because the model is now obsolete. The department’s wood chipper needs to be repaired as it is “serviceable” but “needs significant repairs.”

For the Solid Waste and Recycling Department, $170,000, or 7 percent of the total, is proposed to replace a baler and to fill the remaining portion of a landfill. Filling the landfill would cost $150,000.

About $30,000 is planned for other repairs, and $3,000 for new cable TV equipment.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.