2015-03-27 / Front Page

City’s capital improvements budget goes green

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — The ‘C’ in South Portland’s CIP plan for 2016 might well stand for ‘climate.”

The $8.12 million budget for capital improvement projects (CIP) unveiled by City Manager Jim Gailey at a March 9 council workshop includes three projects, totaling $63,000, targeted to the environment.

“This is the first year, through our Climate Action Plan, that we have a ‘green’ CIP,” Gailey said.

All of the CIP projects will be funded through grants, TIF fund proceeds, reserve accounts, and the city’s undesignated fund balance. No money will be borrowed and none of the projects will affect the coming year’s tax rate.

City councilors adopted the climate action plan in November, while last month Gailey hired Julie Rosenbach, a former official with the Environmental Protection Agency, to be South Portland’s first sustainability coordinator. Her post was a recommendation of the plan, as were the new CIP requests.

The largest of the green initiatives is the purchase of an electric Nissan Leaf vehicle for $33,000. Gailey said the new car would be covered by more than $25,000 in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, as well as $6,600 from the city’s undesignated fund balance. Intended to replace a pickup truck now used by the public works department, the Leaf “will save the city in operating costs long term,” Gailey said.

Gailey also has asked for $20,000 to begin planning to replace city streetlights with low-energy LED bulbs. Similar to the lights recently installed during Ocean Street renovations in Knightville, LED lights last 10-15 years and use less energy than conventional lights. However, the real cost borne by the city is rental fees.

In 2011 and 2012 the council approved dousing dozens of streetlights due to the high rental fees charged by Central Maine Power. Since then City Planner Tex Haeuser has worked with local legislatures to try and win approval from the Public Utilities Commission of new rules that would let municipalities own the lighting installed on CMP poles. That work has now progressed far enough, with a decision expected in May, Gailey said, that Haeuser is ready to begin working with his peers in neighboring towns to “define the most cost-effective course of action on bringing the LEDs into our community.”

Gailey also has proposed spending $10,000 to buy a oneyear subscription to a Cisco Energy Wise information system. The program would help both the city and businesses in South Portland measure the amount of energy used by each device on its computer network. It then recommends ways to lower that power consumption, with a 35 percent cut in energy costs projected, Gailey said.

While the green projects are new, they are far from being the big ticket items in South Portland’s 2016 CIP budget.

The biggest single project, ringing in at nearly $5 million, is the second phase of the ongoing Thornton Heights sewer separation project. Almost $2 million of that cost will be covered by TIF reserves, and construction will result this year in an overhaul to Main Street through the area, once work below ground is complete.

A smaller but equally noticeable project will be the installation of six new glass bus shelters, at a cost of $120,000. Proposed locations for the new shelters include Western Avenue near the Burlington Coat Factory; the “outbound” stops on Ocean and Sawyer streets and Broadway; Gannett Drive near Maine Cardiology Associates; Main Street at Cash Corner; and on Brick Hill Avenue. Gailey said he expects to land $96,000 in grants for the new shelters, while he will take $10,000 from surplus and $14,000 from an existing bus service reserve fund.

Meanwhile, what may be the most outside-the-box expenditure is $12,000 to be taken from the city’s downtown TIF fund to draw up plans for a new footbridge over Broadway along the city’s Greenbelt Trail.

Other CIP projects and purchases to be completed next year include:

• $20,000 to buy a computer disc repair system for the library

• $15,000 for a new book return drop-off bin at the main library branch

• $20,000 to install new lighting and security cameras at the city’s two community centers on Nelson Road and in Redbank

• $90,000 for architectural plans for a 15,000-square-foot addition to the Redbank Community Center

• $60,000 to build a multipurpose field and create a community garden at the Redbank Community Center

• $758,000 to expand the offices of the Water Resource Protection Department

• $140,000 for a sewer separation project on Sandy Hill Road

• $35,000 to rehab the department’s maintenance garage

• $93,000 to upgrade the city’s computer network

• $45,000 for maintenance to the beach house roof and deck at Willard Beach

• $75,000 for a new Toro Groundmaster lawnmower

• $27,500 for a new until to groom the infield of city baseball diamonds

• $210,000 for a new ambulance

• $543,000 to replace Cummings Road

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