HOULTON – Although there are many tasks that the town will have to take care of in the years ahead, the municipality’s preliminary strategy to deal with its capital project needs next year seems relatively simple.
It calls for the town to invest in only the most essential items, replace old furnaces to enhance fuel efficiency and save money in the long term, and put aside money to fund future projects.
During a Town Council meeting earlier this week, Town Manager Douglas Hazlett presented the board with a rough draft of how the town can fund major municipal projects.
The issue has been a concern for the town for some time, and councilors earlier in the fall pledged to find a way to finance the projects before drafting Houlton’s fiscal year 2007 budget.
The state of town buildings and equipment came to the forefront in September, after councilors accepted the town’s capital plan.
The thick report identifies and sets priorities for major projects that the town should spend money on in the next five years and estimates a price tag for each undertaking.
The report identified several projects that need attention. Among other things, it pointed out that the furnace at the town’s Public Works Department building is more than 60 years old, and the gymnasium floor at the Gentle Memorial Building needs to be replaced.
In addition, the town’s White Building – which houses the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce and the town’s museum – needs to be painted and repaired.
The board has struggled to find a way to secure the estimated $1.1 million that is needed to complete the projects without ballooning the town’s 18.5 mill rate.
During the meeting, Hazlett proposed that the town replace old furnaces in town buildings to increase fuel efficiency and decrease repair costs. He also suggested funding half of the value of the Gentle Memorial Building gym floor project to minimize the impact in 2008.
The manager then proposed setting money aside in a reserve account to fund the purchase of a used dump truck for the Public Works Department.
“This is obviously a very fluid document,” Hazlett said. “As we get into the budget process, there is going to be some give and take.”
To fund the projects, Hazlett suggested that the town budget money to pay for the effort while also pursuing a short-term bank loan.
He added that he felt that the overall consensus of the council was “be as conservative as we can and hit items in the capital plan that we consider essential.”
Councilors plan to review the strategy before the start of budget workshops later this year.