Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Capital Idea

APD Chief Scott Livingstone right

It's that time of the budget year when department heads appear before the Joint Capital Planning Committee with tin cups in hand looking to fund equipment above and beyond their "operation budget."

The Joint Capital Planning Committee is comprised of two members each from Select Board, School Committee, Finance Committee and Library Trustees.

The target expenditure goal for capital is 7% of the $45 million projected tax levy, or $3,130,466.  However two-thirds of that -- $2,008,575 -- is already spoken for to service debt on previously authorized projects, leaving available $1,044,588.

Plus $180,000 in Community Preservation Funds (the Community Preservation Act Committee is in charge of those funds) and another $255,000 in ambulance funds bringing the grand total to bankroll new capital purchases to $1,480,000.

But the problem is requests to the JCPC are always w-a-y over that limit, with requests this year totally $3,881,311-- so cuts have to be made.

The Amherst Police Department was first up last week and their modest request consisted of 3 new vehicles, total of $105,000, and a $15,000 fingerprint scanner,

The front line police patrol cars are used 24/7 and rack up more miles than a NASA orbiter.  Both of the cruisers are Ford Interceptors -- one an SUV and the other a sedan -- and the third car, for administration, will be a politically correct Ford hybrid Escape.

Ford Interceptor SUV (Crown Vics are no longer manufactured)

Everybody APD arrests has to be fingerprinted.  The current eight year old scanning unit is outdated and breaks down frequently.  The new unit will automatically link to Massachusetts State Police data base for instant background checks.

Of course like Amherst Fire Department one serious problem faced by APD is a lack of people power.  The Town Manager has put the hiring of one new officer ($62,908) for downtown patrol on his "prioritized list of budget restorations" if the Regional Dispatch Center should miraculously happen and saves the town $62,908.  Kind of a Public Safety robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario.

This morning the JCPC heard pitches from the Jones Library ($39,000), Planning Department ($52,000), and Conservation Department ($10,000).

The Library is looking for $4,000 for a new snowblower.  Finance Director and JCPC staff liason Sandy Pooler pointed out the committee has a minimum threshold of $5,000 per item and half jokingly suggested, "Why don't you order a bigger snowblower?"

The North Amherst Library is in need of new carpet so no problems making the $5,000 minimum there, since a lot of equipment needs to be removed and stored before going back in on the new carpet.  A company that specializes in libraries will do it all for $10,000.

The request that will stir the most controversy, but was described by Library Director Sharon Sharry as their #1 priority is for $25,000, representing a one-third contribution to apply for a $50,000 State Planning and Design Grant (25 out of 35 libraries will win be awarded grants).

If the Jones does not win the $50,000 grant the town's $25,000 will be returned.

The $75,000 will go towards hiring a project manager and architect to start the process of a major renovation that could double the size of the Jones Library.  The state would cover half the cost of the renovation/expansion, but on a $10 million project that's still $5 million of town tax dollars.

JCPC Chair Kay Moran called it a "very exciting project, but we have these other very large needs" as she rattled off major renovations coming up -- two elementary schools, a new DPW building and
the forever talked about new Fire Station.

Planning Director Jonathan Tucker presented a request for $52,000 to complete a project already underway:  remapping the 100 year flood plains.  Town Meeting approved $100,000 in 2012 and $15,000 of that was used to hire a consultant.

The consultant concluded the cost to integrate new information into new maps would be $137,000 total or another $52,000 on top of the remaining $85,000 from 2012.  Tucker described the current set of maps (dating back to 1972) as a "Very accurate representation of old information."

David Ziomek took off his Assistant Town Manager hat and put on his Director of Conservation and Development hat to request $5,000 for a new brush hog mower and another $5,000 for a trailer to cart it safely and efficiently around Amherst.

The Conservation Department oversees 2,000 acres, including 40 open fields where mowing is a big part of that upkeep.  The current brush hog is five years old and tends to break down.  But if the new one is purchased the old one would be kept as a back up.

Sandy Pooler gingerly asked (his boss when he's wearing his Assistant Town Manager hat) if he could borrow a DPW mower.  Ziomek replied the DPW is busy with theirs at the same time so it's hard to schedule, although items like a chipper, which is not used as frequently, can be borrowed. 

The JCPC will be meeting with town department heads every Thursday until mid March, and in April will issue a final report to Town Meeting with their Golden Ticket recommendations. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Um...four grand for a snowblower? I think Boyden and Perron could set them up with a more than adequate machine for a fraction of that.