2015-05-01 / Front Page

So. Portland CIP budget goes green

By Duke Harrington
Staff writer

Detail from a concept drawing prepared by South Portland engineering firm Sebago Technics, showing a a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Broadway/ Waterman Drive intersection. (Courtesy image) Detail from a concept drawing prepared by South Portland engineering firm Sebago Technics, showing a a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Broadway/ Waterman Drive intersection. (Courtesy image) SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland City Council has approved an $8.12 million capital improvement projects (CIP) plan for the coming fiscal year, voting it in with a unanimous show of hands at its April 22 meeting.

As has been the case in recent years, not one dollar in any of the construction projects or equipment purchases in the CIP plan drafted by City Manager Jim Gailey will come from residential property taxes.

About half of the funding will be derived from state and local grants. Another $2 million will come from tax increment financing accounts using funds generated from new business construction. Of the rest, $810,000 will come from sewer department reserve funds and surplus accounts, $760,000 from the city’s own reserve funds, $252,000 from the undesignated fund balance, and $318,000 left over from previous CIP projects.

Given four workshop sessions over the last two months, the CIP budget was adopted with little debate.

However, one project has had residents talking at municipal meetings and on social media, largely with a positive reaction.

In what may be the most outside-thebox CIP expenditure, $12,000 will 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.

“Due to multiple required at-grade crossings, high traffic volumes and speeds, and lengthy traffic signal cycle lengths, a pedestrian bridge to connect the Greenbelt Walkway over the Waterman Drive and the Casco Bay Bridge approach intersections with Broadway has been a desired improvement ever since the new bridge was constructed in 1996,” Gailey wrote in his CIP presentation.

The city’s contracted engineering firm, Sebago Technics, has done work over the past year to determine that such a bridge is feasible and can be built within what Gailey calls “the location’s site constraints.”

“The next step is to use the services of a combination design and engineering team, to be selected, to work with residents, city officials, and the arts and historic preservation committee in developing a preliminary design, with renderings, for the facility,” he wrote.

Other major portions of the CIP budget include $4.7 million to fund the second phase of the Thornton Heights sewer separation project, leading to reconstruction of Main Street through the area in a new “neighborhood-friendly” design, as well as $758,000 to expand the offices of the city’s Water Resource Protection Department and $543,000 to replace Cummings Road, the latter a joint project with the town of Scarborough.

A smaller but equally noticeable project in the CIP budget includes installation of six new glass bus shelters, at a cost of $120,000. Proposed locations for the new shelters include Western Avenue near 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, three projects, totaling $63,000, target the environment.

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

City councilors adopted the climate action plan in November, while in February 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 to 15 years and use less energy than conventional lights. However, the real cost currently 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 legislators to 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 costeffective course of action on bringing the LEDs into our community.”

Gailey also has proposed spending $10,000 to buy a one-year subscription to a Cisco EnergyWise 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.

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

$210,000 for a new ambulance

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

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

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

 $75,000 for a new Toro Groundmaster lawnmower

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

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

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

$27,500 for a new unit to groom the infield of city baseball diamonds

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

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

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

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