Following a discussion this week among leading town officials about the rollout of a townwide facilities review, the Board of Finance discussed with First Selectman Pat Llodra and school district officials the future capital planning.
One of the biggest unanticipated points in the school district’s capital plan review came when school officials revealed that a high school auditorium renovation, which taxpayers already approved for $2.2 million, could cost an additional $1.3 million if officials want to address current code and accessibility violations.
At the same time, consultant Charles Boos told finance officials that the town could seek and possibly receive as much as $534,000 or more in state reimbursement because part of the overall improvements will bring the facility up to today’s standards for fire code and handicap accessibility compliance.
“I think that estimated reimbursement is conservative because many of the changes [being proposed] are driven by code compliance,” Mr Boos said. “My confidence is high because it’s a code project.”
Unfortunately, the district will not be able to learn the amount of potential state reimbursements until the community funds the project.
At the Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, September 2, Mr Boos shared an updated estimated reimbursement amount ranging from $500,000 to $1 million.
“You have to fund it before you get a project number from the state,” he said.
On questioning from Finance Chairman John Kortze about what the already budgeted $2.2 million buys, Board of Education Secretary Kathryn Hamilton responded saying it was earmarked to replace seating and ductwork.
Mr Boos added that if the town is already poised to spend $2.2 million on the auditorium, it should consider making the extra investment to meet current code and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. He said without the added work, the town would risk having to undo or tear up work already done to complete necessary compliance renovations in the future.
Director of Music Michelle Hiscavich attended the meeting and reported that many of the backstage features in the current auditorium are now either obsolete or no longer conform safety or fire code standards.
She said a rigging company contracted for the two 12.14 Foundation summer musicals performed an assessment of the backstage features and confirmed a need for those staging features to be replaced.
During the review of the Board of Selectmen’s CIP, First Selectman Pat Llodra told the finance board that except for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the plan is ripe for changes because of new information she is counting on from the facilities review, as well as from a comprehensive energy use audit currently ongoing.
Mrs Llodra also discussed her desire to see $350,000 carried annually in the CIP for ongoing streetscape improvements. But she said spending for those improvements would be dependent on the types of grants being made available to supplement such projects.
She also asked the finance board to support carrying $250,000 forward annually in the CIP for continued funding of open space acquisitions. The first selectman noted that when considering grant awards, the state likes to match funding to existing allocations already in place in the municipal budgets or capital plans.
Mrs Llodra is asking finance officials to consider earmarking $300,000 each to assist the Edmond Town Hall Board of managers and the Booth Library trustees in completing critical facilities improvement projects at these two iconic community buildings. She did note that such a move represents the first time capital planning would encompass these independently operated town facilities.
She also reviewed phasing the development of a new community center complex that would include a multi-pool aquatic center, senior center, and expanded parks and recreation facilities. Mrs Llodra mentioned the ongoing interest of NYA Health & Fitness operators to sell the massive indoor sports facility and health club back to the town for future recreational use.
But regardless of the outcome of that plan, Mrs Llodra outlined the initial phases of the community center development being partially underwritten by a $10 million grant from General Electric, which also includes an added $1 million per year in expenses for the first five years of operation. She said that the future development could include some type of indoor connector that would link the senior facility with the pool area, and possibly, eventually to the NYA.