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Selectmen Approve Capital Improvement Plan

The Board of Selectmen discuss and vote on conceptual priorities for the Capital Improvement Plan.

As the town prepares its Capital Improvement Plan for the next five years, officials said they have to take into account many factors and remain flexible in light of changing conditions, such as the possibility that Newtown Middle School might close several years from now if declining enrollment estimates prove true.

If the school were to close, the building may open up for other community use for which the town had been planning.

“Certainly there could be consideration for community center, senior center, police station,” First Selectman Pat Llodra said during a Monday Board of Selectman meeting. “We may in fact look at these projects very differently if the building is not to be used as a school.”

In addition to potentially changing facility uses, the town is looking to borrow less money than in the past for capital projects, setting as an eventual goal a debt cap of 9-percent of its annual operating budget.

At the moment, officials already have had to trim to the scope of some projects in the near term in order to avoid bumping up against a 10-percent debt cap. That is because the town is still paying off the debt of past capital projects, which leaves less room to take on additional debt in the near term.

“By the time, we get to (20)15-16, some of the debt is paid off and we have a little more flexibility,” Llodra said. “The first time we can take a big step is in 2015-16.”

Education officials have had to agree to trim its list of capital projects in order to reduce the debt load. For instance, the Hawley School boiler project proposed for 2012-13 was reduced by $700,000 by limiting the work to just replacing boilers rather than a full redesign of the heating system, which would have consolidated the number of boiler rooms and called for an overhaul of the piping system, officials said.

The Newtown Middle School renovation project also was removed from the 2014-15 list of projects due to the uncertainty of how that building may be used in the future, though the design fees associated with the middle school was put into 2014-15, according to Debbie Leidlein, who is in charge of the facilities subcommittee for the Board of Education

While the funding may have to be moved around and the location for projects could change in the future, officials should still set priorities when it comes to the idea for the project, Llodra said.

“We are in such a state of flux that we don’t want to lock ourselves in to specific numbers,” she said. “We do want to lock ourselves into concepts.”

The selectmen debated briefly some of the priorities given to projects now on the Capital Improvement Plan, such as "infrastructure" plans at Fairfield Hills, which Selectman Bill Furrier questioned initially until learning the work would be for lighting the and other improvements that will allow people to better enjoy the campus.

Furrier also questioned the priority placed on open space acquisition, in relation to other projects.

Llodra said open space acquisition has been pulled off the Capital Improvement Plan in recent years but may need to be returned as a way to preserve some of the look-and-feel of Newtown. She said land use officials already have identified parcels available for purchase should the town have the money.

Furrier also questioned the reason behind the low priority given to the Hook and Ladder firehouse construction. Llodra said the town was committed to the project but issues remained on where a new firehouse would be built.

A controversial proposal to build a new one on Sugar Street was denied by the Inland Wetlands Commission and is now in litigation, although town officials also are in talks with firehouse officials on whether the project might fit in the area behind Edmond Town Hall near where the existing building stands if the space was reconfigured.

Funding for the project was to have start last fiscal year but was pushed off due to those outstanding issues, officials said.

In the end the selectmen made few changes to Llodra’s recommended plan with the only changing being lowering the priority of open space acquisition in 2013-14. The plan will now move to other town boards for discussion and vote.

2012-13 (Year 1)

  • Capitol road program: $2 million General Fund
  • Bridge replacement program: $430,000 bonding
  • Dickinson playground: $420,000 bonding
  • Infrastructure Renovations at Treadwell Park: $350,000 bonding, $100,00 other funding
  • Hook and Ladder firehouse (phase 2 of 3): $500,000 bonding
  • Queen Street area traffic improvement plan: $300,000 grants, $60,000 General Fund, $40,000 other funding
  • Sandy Hook streetscape program: $200,000 bonding

2013-14 (Year 2)

  • Capital road program: $2 million General Fund
  • Bridge replacement program: $315,000 bonding
  • Fairfield Hills infrastructure: $400,000 bonding, $1 million grants
  • Hook and Ladder firehouse (phase 2 of 3): $500,000 bonding
  • Open Space acquisition: $1 million bonding
  • Artificial turf replacement at Treadwell Park: $500,000 other funding
  • Sandy Hook streetscape program: $200,000 bonding

2014-15 (Year 3)

  • Capital road program: $2 million General Fund
  • Bridge replacement program: $355,000 bonding
  • Open space acquisition: $1 million bonding
  • Community Center design phase: $500,000 bonding
  • Fairfield Hills walking trails (phase 2 of 3): $250,000 bonding
  • Sandy Hook streetscape program: $200,000 bonding

Future years included in plan:

2015-16 (Year 4)

  • Capital road program ($2 million)
  • Bridge replacement program ($265,000)
  • Open space acquisition ($1 million)
  • Dickinson sprayground/bath house ($980,000)
  • Community Center construction (phase 1 of 2) ($10 million)
  • Fairfield Hills building demolition ($6 million)
  • Addition to firehouse substation ($400,000)
  • Replacement of two fire tankers ($700,000)
  • Edmond Town Hall ($810,000)
  • Fairfield Hills complete walking trails (phase 2 of 3) ($515,000)
  • Bathhouse /concession stand at Eichler’s Cove ($425,000)
  • Hawleyville sewer extension ($5 million)
  • Newtown Technology Park ($815,000)

2016-17 (Year 5)

  • Capital road program ($2 million)
  • Bridge replacement program ($414,000)
  • Replacement of Fire Tanker No. 9 and Engine No. 111 ($975,000)
  • Library ($250,000)
  • Senior Center design phase ($500,000)
  • Treadwell/Dickinson Parking lot paving (phase 1 of 3) ($300,000)
  • Community Center construction phase (phase 2 of 2) ($5 million)
  • Police facility design ($800,000)
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