Planning hears, prioritizes capital requests
The Planning Board sorted through the 2014 capital requests from town department heads at a special meeting last Thursday, January 10, placing them into three categories: try to fund in 2014,” place on a list to be bonded, or push off to the future and/or look for grants.
Several department heads attended to explain their requests, including Building Official Marc Tillson and Harbormaster Steve Land. From community organizations, library director Kristin Baumann, and Fire Chief Tristan Payne, also came before the board.
Board members were attentive to Tillson’s description of the ongoing decay of the Coast Guard Station, which he said is “rotting away… and still leaking.” He told the board the staff was doing their best to help, and painted the boathouse this year with the help of island kids. In all, his requests totaled $476,500, including $350,000 for interior renovations to the station, which was placed on the possible bonding list.
The rest of the requests were prioritized in this order: new windows, trim, siding and paint ($30,000); new windows and siding for the north and west walls of the motor pool building ($28,000); an alarm system for the motor pool building ($4,000); manager’s apartment bathroom renovation ($3,000); paint for the north and east sides of the station house ($8,000) and new windows and a roof for the boathouse ($40,000). Replacement of the emergency generator for the station, at $13,500 was pushed forward to the 2015 capital budget.
Not on the list, but requested by Tillson at the meeting, were new water lines, as he said the existing lines fail almost every season. Board Chair Margie Comings thought those could be bonded with the interior renovations at the station house.
At the top of Land’s list for the Harbors Department is a trailer for the town’s patrol and pumpout boats ($7,000) so they can be pulled out of the water. His top five requests also included outboard engines for the pumpout boats ($18,000), an engine for the harbormaster’s boat ($18,000), an engineering design of a new public boat ramp in New Harbor ($20,000) and New Harbor public facilities ($20,000). At the bottom of his list was a new marine patrol boat at $100,000, and off the list completely, a new public dinghy dock in New Harbor.
Baumann asked for funding to complete HVAC work at the Island Free Library with the installation of a fresh air intake system at $25,000. She said the project would reduce long-term energy consumption in the building.
According to Baumann, the state mandates, that libraries have external book returns instead of a door slot. Baumann slotted $15,500 for that project and a new front door. Third on her list is carpeting for the upstairs. The basement and main floors have already had carpet replacement, and a final installment of $10,000 would complete the rest of the building.
A problematic elevator needs to be replaced or refurbished for handicapped access, and though Baumann did not ask for funding at this time, she wanted the board to be aware that this will be a future need. Comings thought the elevator request could go on the list of items to be bonded over the next few years.
Asked about any computer needs, Bauman said they are grouped together with the town’s technology needs, but she foresees a time when instead of computers, the facility will need extra band width. People are bringing their own computers, she told the board.
The Fire Department’s list included another $40,000 to complete fire barn repairs from last year’s budget, and $35,000 for communications. The board pushed out to next year, possibly for bonding, purchase of a replacement ambulance, and Comings wondered further whether the town could try to obtain a grant for that. She recommended they funnel the request to the town’s grant writer, Heidi Tarbox.
The board then discussed other department requests.
The Recreation Department sent requests totaling $1.8 million, including for a new town beach house ($1.5 million), a field house at Heinz Field ($200,000), a study for creating additional athletic fields ($5,000) and an infield groomer ($5,000). Comings thought the beach house and field house could either be bonded or funded through grants and recommended pushing out the groomer into the future. Funding for additional athletic fields was placed on the capital budget list after several people in the audience vouched there was a need.
The Block Island School sent a request for a new roof ($74,300), which the board placed on the 2015 capital list. Another $20,000 for restoration of the school’s façade was included on the 2014 capital list, however.
Requests from the Block Island Health Services to replace an air conditioning compressor, insulate ductwork in the attic and extend air conditioning to the server room and second floor ($10,000) was placed as a top priority on the 2014 capital budget; insulation of the doctor’s house foundation ($5,000) was a second priority.
Looking at the town’s technology list. Comings said the board needed a lot more information to sort through it. Only one item was prioritized, planned annual equipment replacement ($20,000), and it was placed on the capital budget list.
Comings is preparing a draft cover letter with a list to be approved at the February Planning Board meeting, after which it moves on to the Town Council for its perusal and approval.