November 23, 2011WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro selectmen took their first complete pass at proposed warrant articles for 2012 at their Nov. 16 meeting.
Despite two significant reductions, the preliminary total, excluding the operating budget and police union contract, is $4,170,000. Of that total $1,045,000 relates to costs paid by water and recreation fees, leaving a net total of $3,125,600 through bonds or directly from the property tax rate.
The most significant changes that came out of the meeting was a backing away from doing any major improvements to Brewster Hall (discussed in a separate article on this page) and a decision to reduce the annual road upgrade budget from $750,000 to $600,000.
Selectmen will review these projects at least one more time.
Of the preliminary total the largest share, $2,000,000, involved four Public Works Department projects. These are: repairs to the Public Safety Building, upgrading town roads, constructing a new parking lot at the end of Glendon Street, and Phase 3 of the Downtown Streets Project.
Public Works Director Dave Ford is in the process of getting bids for repairing the equipment bay section of the Public Safety Building. An engineering estimate of $350,000 Ford believes is too high, but the roof does need to be replaced and drains installed that flow directly into the recently-installed outside drainage system. Some issues like cracks in the floor may not need to be addressed. The goal is to keep the building together for the fire and police departments for at least another 10 years.
The original plan for upgrading town roads proposed the same $750,000 approved for 2011, but Town Manager Dave Owen is recommending only $600,000 for 2012. Ford agreed he could work with a $600,000 budget, but that would mean deferring planned paving on Pork Hill Road, Stoneham Road and part of Cotton Mountain Road and doing more crack sealing. He pointed out that roads done 10 year ago now need work, but that roads done recently should last much longer.
Selectman Chair Sarah Silk said she would prefer to go back to $550,000, which was the level before the jump to $750,000, in view of the need to do the parking lot and the downtown streets. For said he could work up a $550,000 plan.
There is an engineering estimate of $300,000 for constructing a new parking lot adjacent to the Glendon Street lot on land purchased by the town in 2009. Again Ford feels that is high and he is soliciting bids for the work. The site will be used as a staging area for the Downtown Streets project, so actual work would not be done until 2013.
Owen is recommending that the project be bonded, as the purchase was in 2009, since the lot will have a useful life of more than 25 years. Selectman Linda Murray reminded the board that $1.8 million in capital improvements for 2011 were not bonded, and that added 90 cents to the tax rate. She said she favors bonding wherever possible, even though it will require approval of 60 percent of voters to pass.
The final Public Works project is Phase 3 of the Downtown Streets Project, estimated to cost $750,000, which will also be bonded. Ford said the town has hesitated to do work in this area in the past due to the complexity of installed utilities, including water pipes that date back to 1890. The current project began in 2007 and has involved replacing water lines on Union and School Streets and correcting water infiltration into sewer lines. Funds were raised in 2011 for further road and sidewalk work but the work was delayed by the grant process for Safe Routes to School, which is funding new sidewalks from Carpenter School to Foss Field. The 2011 project funded work on Glendon and School Streets. The Phase 3 funding would involve rebuilding Lehner and Union Streets, and the project is scheduled to go out for bids on Nov. 30.
Water and sewer
The second largest share of capital projects, $950,000, involves upgrades to the town's water and sewer systems, and all but $180,000 of the total will be funded through existing water department reserves and user fees.
Water system projects include moving and upgrading the chemical treatment feed system at the water treatment plant for $120,000 and making recommended energy efficient improvements (new roof, increased insulation, and new HVAC system) for $150,000. The $120,000 would be paid from existing reserves and the $150,000 would be bonded and paid through user fees.
The big project is to upgrade water meters over two years at an estimate cost of $500,000. The new meters will be readable by radio signals and allow monthly water billing. The town has applied for a $100,000 grant in the form of loan forgiveness if the project is approved in 2012, thus reducing the net cost to $400,000. The loan would be paid over time from water fees and efficiency savings andnot affect the tax rate.
The final project is $180,000 to improve the Wastewater Treatment Facility (built in 1973) and Effluent Spray system. It would be bonded but as with all sewer improvements it will be paid for from general funds.
Parks and Recreation
The Parks and Recreation Department is proposing two capital projects, one of which will be paid through user fees.
The larger project is an upgrade to the Pop Whalen Ice Arena to make it a year-round recreation facility, improve its operating efficiency and reduce operating costs. The project would involve installing insulation and a dehumidification system and installing multiuse flooring. Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple said the project was first proposed a few years ago and at that time there was an estimate of $275,000 to do the work. Hipple is now getting fresh estimates but stressed that the total cannot go above $275,000 without adversely affecting rink rates, which will be used to pay for these bonded improvements. Hipple said the roof is already insulated butnot the wall, and the building needs to be "buttoned up" to operate efficiently. Dehumidification is needed to remove condensation from the building, which is causing rust in the girders and the chillers to work overtime. Water dripping on the ice also forms bumps which are a safety hazard.
The second project is the construction of a bathhouse at Albee Beach for $125,000. The original estimate was $210,000, Hipple said, but now that students from Region 9 Vocational Education Center will be able to do most of the work, the overall cost has come down. The facility will house restrooms and changing rooms and be available to trail walkers as well as bathers during the season. The foundation and septic system have already been installed using 2011 operating funds.
Hipple is also proposing that the town establish a Recreation Revolving Fund that would allow fees collected from recreation programs that pay for themselves to be kept separate and paid out for the specific programs. Establishing such a fund would reduce the operating budget but taking out self-funding programs and give the department more flexibility while improving accountability. Hipple said the Town of Exeter introduced this fund and now has an operating budget that is $400,000 lower.
The balance of the 18 proposed articles include annual additions to equipment capital reserve funds ($175,600 for fire apparatus and $155,000 for Public Works equipment) and $50,000 to fund the first year of an estimated five needed to create a long-term Asset Mangement Program covers all 48 town-owned building and the miles of pipe and roads it owns.
Also included is an article to raise $160,000 to purchase and demolish the former Bunn McBride house at 255 South Main St., located between the library and Public Safety Building. Owen said the building was inspected by Building Inspector Audrey Cline, Deputy Fire Chief Tom Zotti and Selectman Silk to see if any alternate uses were possible. While the first floor could be used for temporary office space, the basement is wet and the second floor is not usable without major renovations. Of the $160,000 total, $148,000 is to purchase the property and $12,000 is to remove the building.
The final article, still to be determined, concerns what the Board of Selectmen plan to do about Brewster Hall. With the latest $2.7 million project now unlikely to be proposed, the two other options under consideration, doing only needed repairs and upgrades and setting money aside in a reserve fund, have both been estimated at $250,000 each – to the repairs project is still be refined.
Selectman Dave Bowers was not present at this preliminary review. Selectmen will discuss the articles again at their next meeting on Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.