After months of gathering data, assessing school buildings and evaluating needs, Newton Mayor Setti Warren presented a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) last night that outlined top priorities in both school and public safety buildings.
"I believe strongly that if the city of Newton is going to remain the remarkable community it has been for so long we can and must invest and begin to aggressively address our infrastructure, particularly the elements that impact education and public safety," Warren said in his presentation last night.
To view a copy of last night's presentation and the CIP, click the .pdfs to the right.
Angier, the district's oldest elementary school, has been identified several times as a priority for renovation or a complete rebuild. In a facilities presentation to the School Committee last month, architects reported that the school would likely need to be replaced to serve the needs of the district.
Warren underlined the "deplorable" condition of both Angier and Station #3, buildings that he says "no longer meet the needs of our community."
As for the Carr School, the city must consider rehabilitating the building to use as swing space for future school renovation projects, Warren said. Currently, the former Newtonville school is know as the Newton Cultural Center, a building that includes 10 organizations such as the Suzuki School of Newton, Newton Open Studios, WarmLines and the Mayor's Office for Cultural Affairs.
Funding the projects
But the three priority projects only make up a portion of the city's $240 million in capital needs. Around $160 million of that -- or roughly 67 percent -- is made up of infrastructure improvements needed at the city's 78 public buildings, Chief Operating Officer Bob Rooney said last night.
And while the city has managed to free up some money through union negotiations and a zero-based budgeting approach, both Warren and Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux said last night the city will have to look to other revenue sources to fund the Angier and Station #3 projects.
"We have done a tremendous amound of work but at some point we cannot do everything fast enough and we cannot either generate revenue or be able to do all of the projects that this community really needs to have done," Lemieux said. "Angier School and Fire Station #3 are the two projects we've identified as needing alternate funding."
Some of those alternative revenue sources include additional economic development in the city, such as projects like the Chestnut Hill Square development. Lemieux also said the city willl look at a pay-as-you-throw trash program or a potential debt exclusion override, Lemieux said.
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If things move on the current track, Warren said both a new Angier school and Station #3 will likely be completed by fall of 2016.
Aside from the top priorities that will need outside funding, Lemieux outlined several projects that will be included in the city's fiscal 2012-2017 capital projects:
- Completion of elementary school modular classrooms
- Completion of F.A. Day Middle School project
- Completion of Fire Station #7 project
- Design and renovation of Carr School
- Renovation of Fire Station #10
- Fire apparatus fleet replacement
- DPW large construction fleet replacement
- Steam to hot water system conversion at Brown Middle School
- Several mechanical, masonry and roof needs
- Feasibility study/design of Angier renovation/replacement
In the coming months, Warren said he will form a working group made up of City Hall officials as well as members of the Board of Aldermen and School Committee. The group, which will be lead by an experienced project manager, will take a close look at the city's CIP and refine timelines as well as explore some of the alternative funding sources.
In addition, Warren said he plans to hold town hall meetings throughout the city to hear residents' questions and ideas for the CIP.
How the facility assessment system works
Officials touted Monday night's CIP presentation as the culmination of "a comprehensive approach" the city has taken in creating its CIP. Newton used software to create a detailed database that included the status of public buildings and spaces in the city, what improvements those spaces may need and the potential consequences if the needs are not addressed.
Warren said the city's method in creating the CIP is "leading the way in the Commonwealth."
"We are the only community that has taken such a comprehensive and systematic approach," he said.
In a separate presentation last night, Chief Operating Officer Bob Rooney explained that the software and system used to review and assess the city's capital needs saved Newton "millions".
"By doing a complete assessment of all our buildings, we found things that needed to be fixed immediately. There were health and safety threats to employees and the public," Rooney said. "By identifying those and getting those funded, we avoided a potential catastrophe and we've also avoided some serious costs."
Some of those emergency renovations included an "obsolete" electrical system at Gath Pool as well as deteriorating cement beams that were over work areas for city employees.
In the database, city buildings, parks and systems are assessed and placed on a grid according to priority. The project's priority is determined by the risk of it failing, how old the system/building is and the consequences if that system/building failed.
Once the city system or building receives a "risk factor" it is placed on a chart that prioritizes the projects by risk, allowing the city to look at what it needs to do, what it can afford and how to potentially bundle several projects together.
The database of city buildings and systems as well as their "risk factors" will be updated, Rooney said, and residents are able to view it on the city's website.
"[The software] is not making the decisions for us, just informing our decisions," Rooney said.
Editor's Note: Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux also presented a five-year financial forecast. Patch will have a story with more details on that presentation later this week.