GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 10, 2013

Rockport weighs capital priorities

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — From an estimated $13 million seawall in front of Long Beach to new carpeting in Rockport schools, the Board of Selectmen and other town officials are sifting through a bundle of capital improvement requests as they prepare a budget for the coming 2014 fiscal year.

Wally Hess, chairman of the Capital Improvement Planning Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, presented the requests to the Selectmen during their Tuesday night meeting.

Due to the scope, cost and uncertainty of the project, the CIPC and Finance Committee recommended not to fund a seawall along Long Beach for the next fiscal year, although Hess said it remains a priority.

Even if the project was funded over 10 years, it would still cost the town more than $1 million annually, he said. The total amount was allocated to fiscal year 2015 as a placeholder. However, 59 of the 97 requests were recommended for inclusion over the next fiscal year, with a majority of the remaining requests pegged for a five-year plan.

About $3.8 million in requests were allocated in the draft improvement presentation, cutting back from a total of $31 million in overall requests from various town departments, officials said.

With $300,000 projected in free cash carrying to fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, Hess acknowledged the shortfalls and growing needs throughout the town.

”Clearly, a larger stream of revenue is needed to accomplish the five-year plan,” he said.

Hess said the remainder of the $3.8 million in requests would be funded through loans and borrowed money.

Because he said it was a safety hazard, Hess and the committees recommended a $100,000 project to redo ground work on the Rockport Elementary School playground. He said that, when on a site visit, there were large rubber chunks sticking out from the playground, posing a safety hazard for students.

Hess said the rubber molding was not properly installed in 2009. Selectwoman Frances Fleming raised the question of holding the initial company responsible, but Hess said the ground work had a one-year warranty.

Another safety issue raised led to calls for repairs to the town-owned side of Pigeon Cove Harbor at an estimated cost of $550,000.

Joseph Parisi, director of the Department of Public Works, pitched for a third — and sorely needed — a new DPW building. Hess, who also took a tour of the building, cited it as another safety hazard with $75,000 being allocated toward the planning and development of a new building.

Parisi said the current headquarters, built in the 1960s, has not aged well. He said much of the ventilation, electrical work and sanitary facilities are out of date.

“We just want to accommodate DPW employees and vehicles,” he told the Times during a phone interview Wednesday.

Other requests from the information technology department totaled just over $1 million for the next fiscal year, with over half going to new computers and printers throughout the town. The DPW had the second highest number of requests, totaling $936,000, allocated for fiscal year 2014.

Hess commended DPW officials for their thoroughness during the several meetings with capital improvement and finance committee officials. He said the preliminary capital improvement list was a constant work in progress.

Hess expects a final list of capital improvements to make its way before the Board of Selectmen in about one month.

From there, he said, it will be up to the voters at Town Meeting to decide which projects to back.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.