Freeport kicks off budget season with capital improvements discussion

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FREEPORT ? The first sign of municipal budget season came Tuesday night with the distribution of a $2.1 million capital improvements budget for fiscal year 2013.

Town Councilors took no action on the proposed capital portion of the municipal budget except to schedule a March 20 hearing and workshop on the proposed outlay of spending for some police, public works and fire department purchases and infrastructure work in town.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead Jr. said municipal reserve funds will pay for all items in the proposed capital improvements plan. Spending at the Public Works Department and on “comprehensive town improvements” comprise about $1.1 million of the $2.1 million Olmstead would like to fund.

Within the $637,000 requested for comprehensive town improvements is spending to reconstruct a portion of Upper Mast Landing Road at a cost of $240,000. In a memo from Town Engineer Albert Presgraves to Olmstead, Presgraves said some of “the road’s underlying structure has failed, so about half will need to be rebuilt.” Presgraves also noted the project has been deferred for about two years.

Work to improve South Street could also move forward at a cost of $290,000, if the project qualifies for Maine Department of Transportation funding of the same amount to better rebuild the road.

Work to reconstruct a section of West Street was deferred this year, in part because councilors also approved applying for a Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System grant of $242,000 to build a path for bicyclists and pedestrians along the road. The application is for the 2014-2015 funding cycle, and Olmstead said the roadwork and sidewalk projects should be done simultaneously.

Included in the Public Works Department request of $479,000 is $120,000 to buy an excavator for maintenance and road projects. In a memo to Olmstead, Public Works Superintendent Earl Gibson said increasing rental fees indicate the town would spend $387,000 to rent an excavator over the next 15 years when buying one less than two years old would cost between $115,000 and $120,000 and have a 15-year lifespan.

With insurance and maintenance included, Gibson estimated buying the excavator would save the town more than $236,000 over 15 years.

The proposed capital budget also includes $55,000 for work on a depot for Amtrak Downeaster passengers when service begins in the fall and $25,000 to replace three bridges in the Hedgehog Mountain recreation area west of I-295.

The capital spending plan and outline for potential capital budget spending through fiscal year 2016 can be viewed at http://bit.ly/zEha2N. After the March 20 workshop, the capital improvement budget is expected to face an April 3 Town Council vote.

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

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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.