The town has a five-year plan for funding its larger needs - the Capital Improvement Plan. The plan is composed of the requests of each town department after they have been adjusted by the town manager. To qualify for the capital plan, items must cost more than $25,000 and have a life expectancy of at least five years.
Many things on the plan have a replacement schedule, such as police cruisers and fire gear but the Town Council, in the interests of keeping budget increases low, frequently cuts from the plan and defers costs.
Here are the capital requests for 2013-14 and beyond by department:
Fire Department Request for 2013-14
Turnout gear: $50,000
SCBA Cylinder replacement: $50,000
Medic 12 Truck replacement: $95,000
Turnout gear, which firefighters wear when fighting a fire and SCBA cylinders, or self-contained breathing apparatus, which provides firefighters with air, are both on a long-term replacement plan. According to Director of Fire and Rescue Services Mary Ellen Harper, both types of equipment are on an 11-year cycle to replace the gear.
“We weren’t funding this gear the way we were supposed to. It’s one of the most important things you need to fight a fire,” Town Manager Kathy Eagen told the council at a meeting on the Capital Improvement Plan. “We should think about moving this back into the operating budget but we’ve done better funding it in capital.”
The Medic 12 truck, a 2004 F15 pickup, which is run out of the Farmington Fire Department, is one of the busiest fire vehicles the town owns, Harper said, because it is often used to respond to medical calls. Using the pickup saves wear and tear on the larger engines and is safer on the road, while allowing firefighters to get to the scene quickly, she said.
Farther out, the fire department is looking to replace engines 4 and 6 in 2014-15 and engine 3 in 2015-16.
Police Department Request for 2013-14
Police technology: $50,000
The police department is looking to replace a battery backup unit that provides power to its communication system when the station loses electricity. The unit keeps the system running until the generator comes on. The current unit is more than 7 years old, Police Chief Paul Melanson said and replacement parts are no longer available.
The department is also looking to retrofit all its frontline cruisers with in-car video cameras. The town recently purchased two cameras. The cameras begin recording due to triggering events, including traveling over certain speeds, if an officer puts on his lights or by officer command. They pre-record 30 seconds, have the officer’s badge automatically associated with the tape and automatically downloads when the car pulls into the police department parking lot. Each unit costs $8,000 and the department is looking to outfit seven cars.
In 2014-15, the department is looking to upgrade the police firing range because it is outdated and has environmental issues that need to be taken care of. More police technology, automated fingerprint machines, license plate readers, upgrades to the police station and a replacement vehicle are also planned.
Community and Recreational Services Request for 2013-14
Staples House renovations: $25,000
The Staples House was recently renovated on the outside but the historic building, which houses several town offices, including the fire director and social services, is severely in need of renovating inside, Nancy Parent said
“The inside of the building needs substantial amounts of work… and we need to have someone come in and do a plan for us,” Eagen said.
The funds in 2013-14 would be for a complete plan, which would be followed by renovations in 2015-16.
The department is also looking at putting an exercise track at the Senior Center and at a sprayground water park ($65,000) which has been on the capital plan and been deferred for years. Officials are also looking at the possibility of developing the Tinty Fields, currently open space, into athletic fields to ease the overcrowding of town athletics. Various sports programs in town have been hindered from expanding, Eagen said, because of the space shortage.
Highway and Grounds Request for 2013-14
FHS track: $100,000
FHS tennis courts: $400,000
IAR Middle School improvements: $1,375,000
Fields and playground equipment: $30,000
Highway Dept. dump truck: $180,000
Parks Dept. rotary mower: $55,000
Total: $2,140,000 (some proposed to be bonded)
Both the tennis courts and track at Farmington High School are in poor condition and need to be replaced, officials said.
“Coaches repaired the courts so the team could use it last year but it’s questionable whether they can this year. There are 3-4 inch gaping holes, cracks… it remains to be seen how it looks in the spring,” said Scott Zenke, Highway and Grounds superintendent.
The dump truck, which the town uses to plow snow, was purchased in 1984 and parts are not available for it, Zenke said. The mower is from 1989.
“The highway and grounds replacement plans over last few years - we have not been that great about following that,” Eagen said. “This capital plan is more realistic of what we should be spending our money on for some of our equipment.”
The Irving A Robbins improvements, for a new boiler system, parking lot improvements and tennis courts, have been packaged together because Eagen recommended bonding the items. More information about the plan is here.
Continued replacement of trucks and equipment, as well as sidewalk repair, is planned in the coming years.
Engineering Request for 2013-14
Emergency operations: $130,000
Road reconstruction: $3,000,000
Bridge repairs: $50,000
Total: $3,180,000 (road repairs planned for bonding)
Following the storms of 2011 and 2012, the town looked at ways to better prepare for emergencies, including buying a generator and adding another shelter on the east side of town and buying equipment to relocate the 911 dispatch center. More information is here.
The town manager recommended bonding the $3 million road plan.
"We pay 25 percent more than we should simply because we don't keep up with our roads," Zenke said.
Continued road replacement is planned in the coming years.
Westwoods Golf Course Request for 2013-14
Rotary mower: $50,000
The town has undergone an extensive study of the Westwoods Golf Course, which has steadily been losing money for the past few years. A resident survey will be sent out and the council will decide on a policy direction for the town-owned property.
Town Manager Request for 2013-14
Technology improvements (Town Hall): $3,000
Town Hall improvements: $375,000
Building/equipment improvements: $80,000
Land records indexing: $25,000
Real estate revaluation: $40,000
Town Hall improvements are planned for the coming years.
Treatment Plant Request for 2013-14
Repair sewer lines: $500,000
Pump station improvements: $100,000
Plant design upgrade: $500,000
Plant equipment replacement: $50,000
Rolling stock equipment: $25,000
Water treatment plant is also funded through the Water Pollution Control Fund. A major plant upgrade for $50 million is planned for 2016-17.
Board of Education Request for 2013-14*
IAR Middle School Heating Plant: $1,100,000
Technology infrastructure: $527,800
Underground storage tanks: $145,000
School code and safety compliance: $75,000
General fund: $2,562,800
Other funds: $1,175,000
*The Board of Education request was not considered or lowered by the town manager. The council will consider the board’s capital request at a joint meeting.