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Capital Planning Hits The Summer Slump

A relaxed schedule of summer meetings by the Board of Selectmen will contribute to a delay in presenting the next five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to the Board of Finance. But finance board members have no issue with the approximate two-week postponement according to Finance Director Robert Tait.

Mr Tait said some town departments have also been delayed in finalizing their CIP requests, but he expects to have any missing details added to the latest draft plan by the time the selectmen meet again on August 18. By Charter, the CIP is due to the finance board by August 11.

On July 7, selectmen received the latest capital planning document, which the finance director said was “about 90 percent complete.”

“Some departments are still finalizing project budgets and gathering quotes,” Mr Tait told the board. For example, he said the Highway Department is aware of which local bridge it plans to replace in year five of the plan (2019-2020), but the department has not yet confirmed the bridge location or estimated cost details for the CIP.

Before reviewing a few high points beginning with next year’s capital plan, the finance director reminded selectmen about a couple of changes he is proposing for the current year’s plan.

Those changes include bonding $1 million of a planned $1.5 million grant to help Newtown Hook & Ladder complete the construction of its new headquarters; and eliminating bonding for $500,000 that was planned to finance the design phase of a long-planned community center.

The town recently received a $15 million gift from General Electric — incorporating $10 million to construct and $5 million staff a new community center for its first five years of operation. So Mr Tait is proposing that CIP earmarks that were originally going to be funded by taxpayers be dropped from the CIP’s 2014 and 2015 bonding schedule.

The final $500,000 of the Hook & Ladder grant will shift to the 2015 bonding schedule, and $10 million that was originally planned for bonding the first phase of community center construction will now shift to a grant revenue column of the CIP.

The remaining two phases of proposed community center construction — which would be bonded — are now reflected in years two and three of the new CIP. Those earmarks are for $10 million in 2016 and $5 million in 2017.

First Selectman Pat Llodra admitted that the shifting of proposed community center allocations may appear complicated, but she assured Selectmen Will Rodgers and James Gaston, Sr, that “the gift from GE just moves us in a different direction.”

“A lot of decisions have to be made,” Mrs Llodra said. She is proposing using the GE gift to complete Phase 1 of a community center project that would encompass a senior center and an aquatic facility.

Phase 2 would consist of another building connecting the senior and aquatic facilities to the NYA Sports & Fitness Center. And Mrs Llodra said Phase 3, in the 2018 fiscal year, could be applied to possibly acquiring some or all of the NYA and repurposing it for public use.

The first selectman was quick to point out, however, that a planned townwide municipal facilities strategic analysis rolling out this fall could significantly alter those plans.

Mr Gaston said that the CIP was always considered a fluid document for planning purposes.

“The CIP is always a work in progress, because we are always getting new information,” he said.

Mr Rodgers concurred.

“I’m OK with some uncertainty [in the CIP], especially in years three, four and five,” he said.

No matter which direction the CIP goes, Mrs Llodra noted that no previously proposed projects are being removed from consideration. And, she said, if all proposed projects move forward, the town will remain at or under a nine percent cap on its capital borrowing.

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