South Portland eyes 'green' capital improvements

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SOUTH PORTLAND — City Manager Jim Gailey presented the City Council with an overview of the fiscal 2016 capital improvement plan budget that for the first time includes three environmentally friendly, or “green” projects. 

The total proposed 2016 capital improvement budget is approximately $8 million. 

“This is the first year, through our Climate Action Plan, that we have a green CIP,” Gailey said Monday night.

The first green project is a proposal for a one-year subscription to a Cisco EnergyWise information system for $10,000. The program would enable businesses and the city to identify and measure the amount of energy used by each technological device under the same IT network. It breaks down power consumption per device and details projected savings per dollar amount, Gailey said.

The system is estimated to cut energy costs up to 35 percent.

The second environmentally friendly project is the purchase of an electric Nissan Leaf sedan at a cost of $33,000. 

The purchase would be covered by more than $25,000 in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, and $6,600 from an existing fund balance. 

The vehicle would replace a pickup truck and will “save the city in operating costs long term,” Gailey said. 

The third green project includes replacing all city street lights with light-emitting diode, or LED, lights. 

One of the city’s largest line items in the budget, behind salaries, Gailey said, is the cost of renting and using street lights.

City Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser has been “doing yeoman’s work” in trying to convince the state to allow municipalities to install “privately held streetlights on CMP poles,” Gailey said. The LED’s have a projected life of 10-15 years.

City officials are planning ahead and hoping a decision comes from Augusta in May. In the meantime, the Planning Department has requested $20,000 for the project. 

The city hopes to band with other municipalities to really “define the most cost-effective course of action on bringing the LED’s into our community,” Gailey said. 

Other major expenditures proposed in the budget include a request for six new glass bus shelters at a cost of $120,000. 

The proposed locations include Western Avenue near Burlington Coat Factory, outbound Ocean and Sawyer streets, Gannett Drive near Maine Cardiology Associates, Main Street at Cash Corner, Brick Hill Avenue, and outbound Broadway and Elm Street. 

Grants would provide $96,000 of the cost, $10,000 would be pulled from the existing fund balance, and $14,000 would come from the bus service reserve, Gailey said.

Another $12,000, to be funded through the downtown TIF reserve, is also being proposed for a Greenbelt pedestrian bridge design to connect the walking path over Waterman Drive, where Greenbelt users must now use crosswalks. 

The biggest single expenditure, nearly $5 million, is proposed for the second phase of the Thornton Heights sewer separation project, nearly $2 million of which will be subsidized through TIF reserves. 

Councilor Pattie Smith also suggested that the city move forward with plans for a solar farm.

In October, the council discussed the possibility of constructing a solar farm in the capped landfill off Highland Avenue. 

“As a City Councilor, I would support (seeing) a reserve fund for the solar farm, to move forward with this project because I think it is so important to our community, so important for job development in our and where we need to be going as a city,” Smith said.

Mayor Linda Cohen agreed: “I do want to see us pushing ahead on the solar field in any way we possibly can.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.