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Public Hearing Tonight on Capital Improvement Plan

Plan includes emergency operations needs highlighted by 2011 storms, road paving, repairs to Farmington High School track, tennis courts and playground equipment.

A public hearing will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall on the town manager's proposed five-year Capital Improvement Plan. The plan guides spending on items and projects across all town departments which cost more than $25,000 and have an expected lifespan of more than five years.

Town Manager Kathy Eagen will present the plan, with requests from each of the town's department heads. The total expenditure for the capital plan would be just over 81 million over the next five years. Funds may come from the town's general fund, miscellaneous other funds or be bonded. The proposed budget for 2013-14 is $9.2 million. 

This year, the Town Council directed Eagen to follow its policy of funding the capital plan at 2.5 percent of the total budget. The council has followed this policy only twice in the past seven years due to difficult budget years and as a result, Eagen has said, some maintenance has been neglected. 

Though approved, the council may choose not to fund some items in the capital plan. 

Overarching themes of the 2014-2018 Capital Improvement Plan include emergency operations, infrastructure, maintenance and equipment.

Eagen writes in a presentation on the capital plan that the storms of 2011 highlighted the need for increased emergency preparedness. In particular, the town is looking to create another shelter location (in addition to Farmington High School) on the other side of town, for use when the Farmington River floods Route 4. Eagen proposes purchasing a generator for Irving A Robbins Middle School so the school could serve meet that need. 

Since flooding on New Britain Avenue almost forced an evacuation of the police department, which serves as the town's dispatch center and emergency operations center, Eagen proposes equiping Southwest Fire Station as a backup. The communications center at the police station is on the first floor, with wiring below the floor. 

Electrical upgrades at the high school, which serves as the town's emergency shelter, are needed, Eagen wrote. The school is serviced by a generator, which almost shut down a few times when residents were sheltered there during the October 2011 snowstorm. 

Generator work is also needed at the Town Highway Department garage, Eagen wrote, to ensure the town has access to its fuel tanks to power public safety and public works vehicles in case of an emergency when fuel is scarce.

Eagen writes that repair is needed at all the town's school playgrounds, the Farmington High School track, the tennis courts at FHS and IAR and at the town little league fields. 

In addition, the capital improvement plan includes the routine replacement of town equipment, such as police cars, firefighting gear and public works equipment. 

"The cost of maintaining the Town's infrastructure through the CIP is a necessary expense that has to be recognized," Eagen writes in summary. "The need for funds to maintain the Town's property, buildings and equipment is often greater than the willingness of the Town to appropriate funds to meet those needs.

"However, the cost of not maintaining the Town property... will have a significant longterm impact. It may be tempting to defer a cost today to save money, however, the cost of deferred maintenance and repairs does not disappear, it accumulates and will likely increase in the future."

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