Sewer projects a chunk of Portland capital improvement plan

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PORTLAND — City councilors on July 7 are expected to give a first reading to the 2015 Capital Improvement Plan, which includes $12.6 million in General Fund bonds.

The outlay of equipment and vehicle purchases, and infrastructure improvements and renovations drafted by City Manager Mark Rees was endorsed June 26 by the council Finance Committee. A council vote after public comment is expected on July 21.

If approved, the CIP would increase debt service for General Fund capital needs and projects by $93,000, to $26.4 million in fiscal year 2016. The 2015 budget enacted July 1 requires $35.1 million to pay city debt service, with $25.6 million of that for capital projects charged to the General Fund.

The plan also calls for issuing $5.3 million in bonds for sewer projects, offset by $2.15 million in reallocated existing bonds.

Sewer fund debt service is paid through future revenues from user fees. The sewer bonds would be largely used to pay for projects separating waste water and storm water pipes to alleviate waste water flow into Back Cove.

As of June 30, 2013, outstanding city debt was $288 million. The amount includes debt for pensions and sewer bonds.

The 2015 plan will fund $175,000 for continued replacement of city parking meters, $1.87 million for the city share in paving and streetscape projects also funded by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, $190,000 for new seats at Hadlock Field, $210,000 for a new roof at the Portland Ocean Terminal, $265,000 for seven new Police Department cruisers, and $270,000 to replace the wharf at Cliff Island.

Work to restore habitat at Capisic Park would be funded through municipal and sewer bonds ($563,000 and $562,000, respectively), and an anticipated $1.12 million in grants.

The total municipal bond outlay includes $1.5 million in bonds for work at city schools, with $305,000 allocated to expand Casco Bay High School into the former School Department office on Allen Avenue.

The 2015 plan is part of a wider, five-year, $128 million capital plan drafted by Rees, who said the capital needs in the next five years amount to $214 million, adding the plan beyond fiscal year 2015 should not be considered final.

“The capital plan is not intended to predetermine that a project will be funded, but is intended to be a living and flexible document that considers capital needs in the community and balances those needs against what the City can afford,” Rees said in his introduction of the plan.

Items included in the plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 were evaluated in seven categories for a possible 88 points. The primary importance was given to legal obligations and compliance “with Adopted Plans and Studies” at 20 points.

Also considered impacts on public service, asset maintenance need, funding sources, budget impact, prior phases of work and departmental need.

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