AUGUSTA – City councilors have approved a five-year, $ 28.7 million capital improvement plan for Augusta.
The plan includes funding – for next year – for the purchase of a new fire engine and ambulance, repairs to the city’s parking lot that would allow it to reopen its now-closed upper deck and plans to pedestrian safety.
The plan also includes nearly $ 1.8 million to replace the roof of the Augusta Civic Center and $ 600,000 to replace the city’s last remaining tennis courts. Roofing and tennis court projects will take place over the next three years.
Officials said they were hoping some of the projects, especially the civic center roof, could secure funding from other sources, such as federal COVID-19 relief dollars the city is considering applying for via the county. from Kennebec.
Other projects will be funded by bonds, including about $ 4.4 million of projects proposed for next year for which the city would need voter approval to borrow the money.
Spending proposals will not be presented to voters in November because the plan was not approved in time to get the bonds on the ballot. Thus, the expenses would be put to a vote in June 2022, or the city could hold a special election.
“As you can see, we have quite a bit of need in the city in terms of capital requirements, so we will see this continuously over the next several years,” Susan Robertson, Acting City Manager, told Councilors. who approved the five-year plan last week. “I hope the voters will support the work that needs to be done.”
Projects proposed for next year include major repairs to the city’s parking garage near Dickman Street, just above downtown Water Street. The repairs would reopen the upper deck of the garage, which had been closed for a few years due to deterioration.
The proposed bond for the parking garage would provide $ 750,000 for the project, which development director Matt Nazar said would be supplemented by $ 100,000 already set aside for the work.
“I honestly think we’re going to need every penny of this,” Nazar said.
Another $ 200,000 of the proposed bonds would be used to replace the Dr. Melendy Tennis Courts, six courts near the Buker Center that are the only remaining outdoor courts in town.
A former tennis court in Calumet Park is now dedicated to pickleball, and the old courts near the technical center of the capital region, which were no longer in use, have been removed.
The remaining courts, which have cracks, some with weeds and wildflowers growing through them, are in such poor condition that Cony High School has been unable to host any tennis tournaments.
“We put bandages on them just to keep them going,” said Earl Kingsbury, director of community services, of the tennis courts. “In the next few years, these will become obsolete. It’s poor drainage. It seeps all over the back. We can’t keep patching them anymore, so it’s a complete rebuild.
A proposed new fire truck, at an expected cost of $ 625,000, would replace the 4 engine, which Fire Chief Dave Groder says is a 1994 model. The fire department also offered to purchase a new one. ambulance of $ 310,000, as the city is now on the verge of replacing an ambulance every year.
Groder said mileage and wear and tear on city ambulances have increased as they now travel further to get to MaineGeneral Medical Center in northern Augusta, compared to the previous trip when the hospital was on Arsenal Street.
Officials said plans for the plan’s first year are firm, but plans five years from now are just projections. Funding priorities may change before these are addressed.
Over its five years, the plan includes more than $ 2 million in sidewalk, crosswalk and other pedestrian safety related projects, including sidewalk extensions on Civic Center Drive, l ‘improved pedestrian crossings on Water Street and $ 35,000 next year and $ 135,000 in fiscal 2023 to engineer a proposed new sidewalk on a section of Cony Road, in the area where three people , including a one-year-old girl, were killed in May as they walked along the road, where there is no sidewalk.
A 2019 study by the Maine Department of Transportation, prompted by concerns over pedestrian crashes, recommended the city take action to improve the visibility of pedestrian traffic.
The capital improvement plan does not include funds that will be borrowed to build a new police station, for which voters approved in June a loan of $ 20.5 million.
Some of the projects will be funded by a bond of $ 750,000 that city councilors can approve. The city’s charter allows councilors to borrow up to $ 750,000 per year without seeking voter approval.
Mayor David Rollins said in most years the city borrowed through a council-approved bond, but typically paid off a past bond each year as well.
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