Portland mayor seeks to amend capital improvements budget

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PORTLAND — An $18 million capital improvements plan for fiscal year 2019 faces a dozen amendments as it moves toward a full City Council vote.

The plan, which would borrow $15.5 million for vehicle purchases, improvement projects, repairs and roadwork for the city and its schools, had a first reading Monday by the City Council.

On Wednesday, April 11, the council’s finance committee will continue to review it and make recommendations ahead of the April 18 full City Council public hearing and vote. On Monday, Councilor Nick Mavodones said public comment will not be heard at Wednesday’s committee meeting, as it was taken at the April 5 committee meeting.

The spending plan would also draw on $2 million in city and School Department surplus and redirect $460,000 from prior CIP plans to fund bonding projects. The tax impact of the borrowing would begin in the fiscal year 2020 budget, adding at least 5 cents to the property tax rate, according to CIP documents.

A second bond plan for $16.1 million in stormwater and sewer projects also received a first reading Monday. Those bonds are repaid through sewer and stormwater fees, as opposed to property tax revenues.

Within the plan, Mayor Ethan Strimling is seeking to remove the $550,000 slated to install new lights at Hadlock Field in favor of “other needy projects in the city.”

Strimling would like to place $275,000 in the fiscal year 2020 CIP to fund the new lights. The postponement would also allow city staff to discuss ways of funding the work with Portland Sea Dogs owners instead of placing the entire cost on property owners, he said.

His amendment suggests a ticket surcharge could fund replacing the lights, installed before the 1994 season.

The mayor would also like to shift the $100,000 allocated for sidewalk repairs outside the Ocean Gateway Terminal to the general funding of sidewalk repairs in the city.

Strimling would also like to postpone spending $500,000 to tear down a mechanical room attached to the Portland Ocean Terminal near the Maine State Pier for at least a year while councilors determine how the building will be reused.

Councilor Brian Batson has introduced an amendment to reallocate $50,000 for basic repairs to the Stroudwater Dam off Westbrook Street. In 2012, a study recommended $90,000 in basic repairs to the dam, which is nearly 170 years old.

Batson would like to use the money to seal cracks and holes in the dam, remove vegetation from its downstream facing, shore up the area around the dam and install a rack upstream to catch trash.

The remaining $40,000 needed to complete the work would be requested in next year’s CIP.

With $50,000 now allocated for the design work at the skate park on St. James Street, Strimling has moved to add $250,000 for playground repairs and upgrades at Riverton Elementary School off Forest Avenue.

Strimling noted the proposed work has been recommended for at least the last two years, then put off in ensuing bond plans, while noting the playground was determined to be the most in need of work at all city schools. The repairs would include $186,000 for resurfacing the playground and $27,500 to make it compliant with ADA standards.

An amendment presented by Strimling would allocate $25,000 to improve ADA access to Longfellow Park at Oakdale, Noyes and Longfellow streets.

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

As Portland councilors consider a $15.5 million bonding plan, they will be asked to shift funding for repairs to the historic Stroudwater Dam off Westbrook Street.

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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.