Freeport council shifts, OKs capital spending budget

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FREEPORT — With a date shift here and a couple of amendments there, town councilors approved $1.94 million in capital spending Tuesday night.

The final amount was reduced by a little more than $300,000 because of revisions and the removal of $281,000 in “Village Improvements” funded through a tax increment financing zone.

The spending items remaining in the budget include almost $112,000 for an excavator for the Public Works Department, $55,000 to renovate the railroad station in advance of Amtrak Downeaster service, and $100,000 for the Shellfish Conservation Commission to set up a program to preserve local shellfish stocks.

The allocation for shellfish preservation comes with the condition the council must approve the nascent program to trap predators, seed shellfish flats and administer a program Shellfish Officer Tom Kay has estimated to be at least a five-year commitment.

Councilors and shellfish committee members will meet later this month to discuss the details of the program, and were unanimous in their support of ensuring funding would be available as soon as a program is approved. Additional allocations will require annual council approval.

The article detailing spending for village improvements and funding for the Freeport Chamber of Commerce and the Freeport Economic Development Corp. was removed from the capital budget to be considered independently.

Olmstead urged councilors to pass the separate budget Tuesday evening because it held 50 percent of the funding for a new street sweeper. The sweeper is also funded in the Public Works budget.

Councilors then approved a $315,000 budget by adding $34,000 in spending for economic development.

The capital spending budget covers items that are not part of the municipal operations budget, including the excavator Public Works Director Earl Gibson said could save the town about $240,000 in rental fees over the next 15 years.

Gibson told councilors he found a 2011 model costing just less than $112,000, and was authorized to buy it. Estimated cost savings from rentals this year then allowed councilors to reduce spending by about $23,000 on other projects, including work at the Hedgehog Mountain recreation area and road and sidewalk projects on Upper Mast Landing Road and South Street.

Councilors also approved altering the schedule for capital spending to a fiscal year calendar beginning on July 1, as opposed to a calendar year extending back to Jan. 1.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead Jr. is authorized to begin spending the town reserves funding the capital budget immediately, and said the change in the capital budget time frame conforms to the Town Charter.

The council will have to give specific approval to the town manager each year to spend town reserves on capital projects before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.