Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Dennis Hoey firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND - City Manager Mark H. Rees laid out an ambitious five-year plan Thursday night for improving or replacing municipally-owned buildings and other infrastructure.
It calls for spending $13 million next fiscal year on 60 projects.
Rees' Capital Improvement Plan, which can be changed by the City Council, covers a range of projects, from replacing the Fred P. Hall Elementary School to expanding burial space at Evergreen Cemetery to replacing the stadium lights and turf at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
City councilors on the Finance Committee were reserved in their remarks, but a couple described Rees' plan as "robust."
They will consider public comments from Thursday's hearing before taking up the proposed Capital Improvement Plan for 2013-2017 at their June 14 meeting.
Committee members will then consider which of the projects to recommend funding in fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, and send the list to the full City Council for final approval.
"I like the projects on the list, but looking at our fiscal resources I don't think we can commit to funding all of this," said John Anton, who chairs the Finance Committee.
Rees' five-year plan calls for spending $180 million on 395 projects.
The five-year plan is reviewed annually, so the only projects that are assured of being funded are those approved for fiscal 2013, Anton said.
"All my budget's purpose is to get policy makers to the starting line," Rees said.
The largest project is replacing the aging Hall School.The city said the school is currently ranked 12th on the state's list of schools eligible for state aid.
Rees has proposed spending $400,000 for engineering and designing a replacement. That cost would be incurred in fiscal 2013. But Rees' plan also calls for spending $16.5 million to begin building a new school in fiscal year 2014 and an additional $9.1 million in fiscal 2015 to complete it.
"I want to urge the council to move forward with this project as expeditiously as possible," said Kelly Hasson, the school's principal. Hall School is the second largest elementary school in Portland, serving more than 400 students who live in neighborhoods from Sagamore Village to Stroudwater, Hasson said. Its classrooms sometimes have no heat, and rooms have flooded, she said.
"The short-term solutions to fixing these problems ... we are running out of them," Hasson said.
Steven Scharf, a Portland resident, criticized the plan for proposing to spend $420,000 to replace the lights at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Rees also proposes spending an additional $500,000 to replace stadium turf. City officials said the turf was installed more than a decade ago.
"Spending $420,000 on stadium lights seems excessive," Scharf said. "We could save a lot more money by turning them off when they are not in use."
A few other projects and the year they would be funded include:
• $550,000 to expand burial space at Evergreen Cemetery, fiscal 2013.
• $6 million over the next five years to improve technology at Portland schools.
• $260,000 to build a waste transfer station on Great Diamond Island, fiscal 2014.
• $200,000 to expand classroom space at Casco Bay High School by relocating administration offices to Portland High School, fiscal 2015.
• $19.3 million to build a new public services facility, fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
• $10.7 million to renovate Lyseth, Longfellow and Reiche elementary schools, fiscal 2016.
• $1.8 million to improve Deering Oaks Pond, with $1.3 million coming from a grant, fiscal 2016.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: