City Looks Toward Capital Improvements
Aldermen Monday night received a report outlining city projects to benefit infrastructure, safety and schools
Repairs to roads, improvements to public buildings and the demolition of the old Newton North High School were some of the highlights in Monday night's presentation of the city's five-year Capital Improvement Plan.
Both Mayor Setti Warren and Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux addressed the Board of Aldermen with a report of the city's growing needs.
Among the list of projects were improvements that affect the public health and safety of community members as well as the quality of the city's infrastructure.
According to Warren, projects on the Capital Improvement Plan were decided by a committee made up of town officials including Lemieux, Building Commissioner Stephanie Kane Gilman, Community Preservation Program Manager Alice E. Ingerson, Associate Director of Housing and Community Development Amy Yuhasz as well as several others.
Lemieux said the committee evaluated current projects and then solicited needs from different city departments. After discussing and evaluating the needs, the committee prioritized the projects into a report for the aldermen.
The Newton North High School project was first in a list of many city improvements in the report. The current, demolition phase has been approved for a $1.5 million Massachusetts School Building Authority loan, Lemieux reported, although the city is hopeful that the project phase will not require the full loan amount.
Space needs at the schools are also a major concern, as the School Department has reported a significant increase in enrollment. Members of the School Committee including Chairwoman Claire Sokoloff and Vice Chairwoman Reenie Murphy were present at Monday night's meeting.
Lemieux said the current capital plan includes funding that would support $5 million in bonded debt that could be used space needs at the schools.
"There is still work to be done," Lemieux said. "In the meantime, it was our financial responsibility that we have set aside funding to take care of (space needs)."
Roof work at some of the school buildings is also on the improvement plan, Lemieux said, as the committee decided to set aside $460,000 of the $475,000 requested for the project last year by the School Committee. The other $15,000 was approved last year.
Public health and safety was a major factor in a project's priority, Lemieux said, as improvements to the police department and the Manet Road radio tower topped the list.
As for the Manet Road emergency communication tower, improvements would protect the structure from severe damage during a storm, something that could be "absolultey detrimental" to police and fire communication.
The committee forming the Capital Improvement Plan set aside half of the estimated $600,000 cost for the tower improvements, Lemieux said, as the committee is looking for federal funding to support the other half.
Road improvements are another main concern, Lemieux said, as the committee found through research that 46 percent of the city's roadways are considered to be in "poor" condition.
And while Monday night's presentation certainly laid the groundwork, it is just the beginning of the process, Lemieux said.
Through town hall meetings, the city will gather community input on the improvement projects. Working sessions will also be scheduled with the aldermen.
"I believe its essential for us to work together and discuss and solve the problems in our community," Warren said. "I ask for partnership through this process and I look forward to working with you."