Prioritization is Cap Plan’s Job

As Mattapoisett’s Capital Planning Committee continues its work of meeting with various town departments to review their 2016 needs and the five-year plan, Chairman Chuck McCullough explained the task of the committee. He said that after the committee completes all departmental financial reviews, the members will then debate the prioritization of each line item request. The committee members are: Alan Apperson (member-at-large); Jeremy Collier (banking); John DeCosta (recreation); Jim Muse (schools); Ellen Driscoll (member-at-large); and Chuck McCullough (Chairman and member-at-large). There is one open position that would represent construction. Town Administrator Michael Gagne frequently attends these meeting to shed light on the work of the Finance Committee and to discuss the merits of each departmental budget submission.

Once the Capital Planning committee achieves a consensus on which expenses are most critical, based on the submissions they have received and the justifications offered by department heads, they’ll meet with the Finance Committee to present their findings. In partnership, the two committees will finalize the process and then pass their report along for the Selectmen’s review. The Board of Selectmen will then prepare the warrant that includes the expenses needed to run the town. At Town Meeting, it will be the voters who will decide the final fate of each financial request. Capital Planning reviews all requests over $10,000 and sometimes elects to have a request moved to a departmental budget versus an annual capital request.

Recently, such an expense was discussed when the committee met with members of the local schools whose turn it was to discuss their needs. Ryan Magee presented the technology needs of Center and Old Hammondtown Schools. Magee said that system/network upgrades are ongoing and needed before iPad carts could be used in the schools. These carts are similar to those currently used in other industries such as medical facilities where mobile units bring the computer into a space versus having the computer in a fixed location. Such technology requires wireless conductivity.

Network systems upgrades were viewed by the committee as capital expenses, while equipment (computers) were viewed as a school budget line item since those are typically replaced with greater regularity.

It was further noted that in coming years, books will be replaced with computers and although this isn’t happening now, it is on the horizon. Muse told the group that with the arrival of new standardized testing (PARCC – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), schools will need to have wireless computer capabilities since the majority of the program’s curriculum is internet based. The new math portion comes with a price tag of $7,000 per class for kindergarten through sixth grades.

The facilities portion of the schools’ capital funding needs was also discussed with Gene Jones, who heads up this department. Jones needs funds to replace the roof over the kitchen area at Old Hammondtown School. Replacement flooring for deteriorating floor tiles is also needed at this school, along with playground renovations that are mandated by Federal regulations. He said that the rubberized surface in the playground is in very bad condition, but has lasted long beyond its five-year warranty. He expects to have cost estimates in the coming days. Security camera upgrades were also discussed as a necessity with costs estimated around $26,000. It is planned that in the future, the schools’ security systems will be tied to the police department system for improved safety.

Mattapoisett Library Director Susan Pizzolato was next. She was disappointed to deliver the news that the windows in the new library building are failing at an alarming rate. “It’s a shame, but they need to be fixed,” Pizzolato stated. She added that between increased utility bills and rotting from water intrusion, the windows were a top priority. She estimated that presently 17 windows need to be fixed for an estimated cost of $6,446. Pizzolato also has a generator on her wish list, saying that during a storm emergency she would like the library to be more serviceable to the community. This brought up the fact that the library in is a flood zone area further necessitating a generator to run pumps that would push out storm water. The projected cost of the generator is $49,000.

Before the committee wrapped up business for the evening, Gagne said that Fire Chief Andrew Murray had received updated figures for a new fire station. The new figure was $3.5 million. He said that an exploratory committee is being formed to research a new fire department building and the needs of town hall. Continuing, he said that this committee will investigate the merits of ongoing repairs to the town hall on Main Street or building a new one. There have been some conversations about bringing both the fire department and town hall offices to property located adjacent to the police station, property that the town already owns. “We’ve talked about sharing meeting spaces in a combined building,” Gagne stated.

The Capital Planning Committee meets again on Wednesday, March 26 at 6:00 pm. They are scheduled to meet with the harbormaster, recreation director, and with Gagne.

By Marilou Newell


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