Town receives some pushback on CIP process

December 04, 2013
LINCOLN — The town's capital improvement plan was discussed at a public hearing last Tuesday. Some complaints were heard about the CIP meeting process and the document itself.

A CIP is meant as a tool for town planning. By examining expenses over several years, tax impact in a single year can be diminished. The plan can also improve coordination between town departments.

State statute establishes that a planning board is charged with overseeing creation of a CIP. The board adopted the CIP at a November 13 meeting. O.J. Robinson sits on the board as the representative of the selectmen. Robinson was one of four voting members of the CIP committee, which crafted the document over the last several months.

The committee established a $1.2 million annual target for each year of the CIP, which focuses on 2014-2019. Except for 2014, each year's suggested capital improvement spending, including bond service, is below $1.2 million.

Paul Beaudin provided several comments at last week's hearing. He said the committee did a good job recognizing several long-term town needs.

Nonetheless, Beaudin was concerned about some aspects of the CIP process. First, he expressed disagreement with the timing of the committee's meetings. The CIP committee met weekly during the day. Beaudin argued that interested taxpayers who work could not attend the committee's deliberations. "As a taxpayer, I find that not appropriate," Beaudin said.

Planning board chairman Pat Romprey defended the committee's meeting schedule. "It's not unusual for a subcommittee to meet during the day," he said.

Beaudin added a concern about the voting members of the CIP committee. Town Manager Butch Burbank joined Robinson, Deanna Huot, and John Hettinger as a voting member of the group. Although Burbank's job is to oversee town departments, he does not live in Lincoln.

Beaudin suggested, "All voting members of this committee should be taxpayers." Burbank was unable to attend the hearing.

The lack of coordination with Woodstock was another item Beaudin raised. Certain parts of the CIP include areas that Lincoln and Woodstock fund. Beaudin suggested, "It would benefit the town to have both partners doing the same thing."

Robinson agreed with the need for coordination. Nonetheless, he said Lincoln needed its own CIP document, regardless of any actions Woodstock might or might not take.

Inclusion of some less expensive items in the CIP was another point of discussion. Beaudin said some items should be part of departmental operating budgets, not the capital planning process. He suggested the committee should "refocus on the bigger picture" to ensure the CIP does not include routine maintenance and other less expensive work.

Hettinger, who chaired the CIP effort, thought full disclosure to residents was important. "It scares me to not be open to the public and the taxpayers," he said. By being transparent, Hettinger said, taxpayers can see "a very detailed list of all the jobs that need to be done."

Robinson further defended the committee's work. Regarding the CIP, he said, "We have improved this process each year." Having a complete document helps the town plan for the future, Robinson noted. He added that public comments can assist the committee's future planning efforts.

Some projects listed on the CIP do not include recommended funding for any years in the plan. One of those items is a $2.3 million project for a park and trails along the riverfront. Beaudin doubted the wisdom of such an idea due to flooding in the area. "I don't think it's a viable project when I saw four feet of water down there," Beaudin said in a reference to the impact of Tropical Storm Irene.

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