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Cape Elizabeth urged to stay the course on road care

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Cape Elizabeth urged to stay the course on road care

CAPE ELIZABETH — A recent report shows the vast majority of Cape Elizabeth roads are in good shape, but advises the town to spend $1 million annually to maintain their quality.

The report, which is available on the town website, was compiled by Gorrill-Parmer Consulting Engineers and presented Aug. 12 to the Town Council, along with separate presentations on upcoming road projects and a 10-year plan to maintain other town assets.

The Gorrill-Parmer report states that 81 percent of town roads are in very good or good condition.

"You came out pretty well," Tom Gorrill told the council. "You've been doing a very good job (of maintaining the roads), the way I see it."

The study looked at 434 sections of roadway over 62 miles. About 35 miles of road wouldn't need any maintenance in the next eight to 10 years, according to the report. Another five miles of road wouldn't require maintenance for five to seven years.

The study recommends that six miles of roadway receive shimming and a heavy pavement overlay in the current fiscal year. Another eight miles of road should receive shimming and a light overlay next year.

The remaining eight miles would need costlier treatments, including reconstruction, at an estimated cost of $1.4 million, plus drainage work and other improvements, Gorrill said.

The report notes that it is better to stay on top of maintenance, because the costs of regularly resurfacing roadways is much less than letting them deteriorate to the point that reconstruction is necessary.

The town was authorized to spend up to $11,000 for the Gorrill-Parmer report, but the final cost isn't yet known, Town Manager Michael McGovern said.

Next, Public Works Director Bob Malley presented a six-year, $4.2 million road maintenance plan to the council, which prioritizes projects by need and logistical considerations.

The plan, which is also available on the town's website, details six projects at a cost of $500,000 for fiscal 2014, for instance, that include heavy overlays on portions of Sawyer Road, Spurwink Avenue and Shore Road, and new construction at the Shore Road Path Connector.

The council took no action on the presentations, other than to formally acknowledge them. McGovern said the reports will serve as tools for town employees to answer residents' questions and inform long-range budget planning.

McGovern added that the $1 million-per-year maintenance estimate might be too aggressive, because Cape Elizabeth roads aren't subject to as much truck traffic as other towns.

McGovern also presented the 10-year, $21 million plan for capital stewardship that covers 2015 through 2025.

"It sounds like an awful lot of money, and it is. It's an average of $2.1 million a year," he said.

The plan would manage maintenance and acquisition of everything from public works equipment, buildings, road work and, perhaps, a new library. The plan calls for a mix of funding sources: $8 million from bonds, $12.5 million from annual budget appropriations, and $700,000 from account balances.

McGovern said the tax burden from budget appropriations would be alleviated by retiring old debts: $6.7 million in municipal debts over the next seven years, and $6 million in school debt over the next 10 years.

As such, tax increases would be reasonable, he said.

McGovern said the average homeowner in Cape Elizabeth currently pays $5,209 in annual taxes. If the 10-year plan is followed, the average annual tax could climb as high as $5,420 by fiscal 2019, an increase of $211.

McGovern said he added a $5 million placeholder into the plan for a potential library project. Later this month, the town's Library Planning Committee will solicit public opinion and develop a plan to either renovate Thomas Memorial  Library, build a new library, or do nothing.

The 10-year capital stewardship plan does not include potential school maintenance projects and purchases.

The council did not vote on the proposal.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.