BIDDEFORD — City Manager Jim Bennett says the city will develop a fiveyear capital improvement plan to give the community a better sense of its assets, their condition and the need for investment in them.

Bennett initially outlined the plan at a Sept. 3 Capital Projects Committee meeting .

Bennett told committee members that the document, which he referred to as “a planning document … not a funding document,” should be finalized roughly by January – about six months before the next budget – “so people can be thinking about it as we’re trying to figure out where we take the limited amount of money that we have and really protect the capital investments that the (City) Council has the responsibility to make sure we maintain,” including sewer and drainage systems, roads, city-owned buildings and property, parks and equipment.

“What it does is it gives the entire community, including policy makers, a sense of all the assets you have in the community and what the condition is,” said Bennett.

For example, he estimated that Waterhouse Field – which the Biddeford Athletic Association owns and leases to the city, which in turn leases it to the schools – currently needs about $500,000 to $1 million in work.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got about a $1 million bill that’s sitting out there – somewhere between a half million and one million – and I don’t think a lot of people know that,” said Bennett.

Although there isn’t a need to get that work done immediately, it will have to be a consideration in the next three to five years, he said, and a five-year capital improvement plan will make that clear.

Bennett’s proposal was received well by committee members.

“I think this is something this community has needed for a good, long time,” said committee member Ben Neveux, who is running for the council’s Ward 7 seat. “You can’t really make informed decisions if you don’t have real numbers and this would give the administration, manager, staff, council, the entire city the numbers to make informed decisions. I’m in favor of this, definitely.”

Similarly, Bennett said the document would “take some of the emotion out of it” for policy makers as they make difficult financial decisions and allow them to do so based on logic.

In an email Sunday, Mayor Alan Casavant said he supports the idea and that the city has tried to develop similar plans in the past. Casavant added that capital improvements have traditionally been underfunded in Biddeford, during times when money has been tight, such as during the economic recession.

“Departments have a good sense of what is needed, so creating a plan is easy,” he said. “The problem is having the perseverance to follow the plan, in good times and bad, down the road. It’s important to have this conservation because, inevitably, capital costs will be and must be paid. Delays only drive up the cost, via inflation or further degradation of the facility or infrastructure.”

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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