Mayor, comptroller talk about capital improvement budget

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

As the city continues to work on the fiscal year 2019-20 budget, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and City Comptroller, Diane Waldron, discussed the 10-year capital improvement budget and how projects are chosen.

Each fiscal year budget carries a line item for capital improvements. Zoppo-Sassu said there is always approximately $500,000 set aside for the capital plan, and that the challenge comes from making projects fit into the budget.

“When you have competing resources and very little money, sometimes you find yourselves in situations where you just pick and choose – I don’t think we should pick and choose, I think we need to have a thoughtful plan,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “You don’t just want to take the first three projects that come in, you want to be thoughtful, and really leverage the money to the best ability.”

There are qualifications that projects must meet to be considered, such as costing over $100,000, and that the project must have a lifespan of at least 10 years, such as a roof replacement or the purchase of a new fire truck.

Waldron explained that each department will submit their requests, which should be prioritized by need. Departments also submit a five to 10 year outlook, which allows the Capital Improvement Committee to forecast possible projects for upcoming budget cycles.

There are 22 proposed projects for the FY 19/20 budget cycle: replacing ceiling tiles at Northeast Middle School; a technology upgrade and replacement for all schools; a 10-year improvement master plan for the Parks and Recreation department; paving the Memorial Boulevard improvements at Page Park; renovations to the Fire Department headquarters; reconstruction and possible relocation of Fire Station 3; a city-wide fiber network; manhole rehabilitation and frame replacement; repairs to the sewage collection system; repairs to the thickened sludge storage tank; rehabilitation of the Pequabuck River conduit; reconstruction projects on Maple Court, Founders Drive, and Graham Street; a culvert replacement on Lake Avenue;, replacing the bridge on Jerome Avenue; the Muzzy Field parking lot; the sidewalks and storm drains on Middle Street, and storm drainage work at Bristol Eastern, Northeast, and Mountain View schools.

Aside from funding projects through the general budget, some items can be bonded, some are eligible for grants, and others still are funded in part through the department that submitted them.

For example, the Water Pollution Control facility will be funding their three projects – rehabilitating and replacing manholes and frames, repairs to the sewage collection system, and repairs to the thickened sludge storage tank.

The city will receiving some grant funds for the Jerome Avenue bridge replacement, which Zoppo-Sassu said is projected to be a $4 million project. Some funding will be acquired through bonding. Bristol has three bond ratings – a AAA from Fitch Ratings Inc., a AA+ from Global Ratings, and a Aa2 from Moody’s Investors Services – which Waldron explained makes borrowing money relatively cheap for the City.

The next meeting of the 10 Year Capital Improvement and Strategic Planning committee will be a special meeting, held on Monday, March 4, at 4 p.m., in Council Chambers, 111 N Main St.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.