NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Asset Management Commission Chairman Ed Cooney presented the board’s five-year capital improvement plan to the Town Council during its Feb. 11 meeting, outlining the top requests for maintenance around North Kingstown.
The council voted to receive and file the CIP during its last January meeting, setting up Cooney’s presentation on Monday that was met with positive reviews from members and very few questions.
AMC met over the course of four meetings with several departments across town including recreation, information technology, water, public works, library, fire, police and schools. After hearing their proposals for capital improvement projects, AMC members spent time ranking each project individually on a 1-5 scale. Those scores were amassed and the top initiatives were recommended to the council.
AMC acknowledged in its CIP cover memo that the recent voter approval of a combined $27 million bond for various town and school maintenance projects made its job much easier this year. Cooney called the bond a “mulligan” from voters.
Cooney explained to the board that bus fleet updates and security improvements for the school district were its most important proposals. He said AMC advocates for adding funds to the district’s capital reserve, which received a small infusion last year at the eleventh hour. He said that, according to school records over the past decade, the district spends about $900,000 in capital funds each year.
“That exceeds what’s been appropriated to them for the past 10 fiscal years,” Cooney said. “But that’s just at the starting point of what their actual expenditures are. FY2019, so far in the first two quarters, the school department included that they had spent $1.6 million in capital expenditures.”
Cooney said that infusing more than $3 million into the school’s capital reserve over a four-year stretch would prevent the town from having to ask for a bond to take care of deferred maintenance. The AMC’s proposal would start adding $3.7 million to the school’s general funds in FY2021. That initiative would run three years into FY2024.
“The AMC does not believe the town should go to bond for maintenance-related projects,” Cooney said. “We believe this schedule is more wide to the actual needs of the school department, and we didn’t want to increase the CIP to the additional $3 million in FY2020 because we knew that it was going to take a little time to digest. We thought it was something you could begin to use when you’re discussing the out-years of your budget.”
As for enterprise projects, Cooney said the AMC recommends work on well No. 10 and the water system asset management plan. He said well No. 10 is the “most productive” of the town’s wells. Those two projects would amount to $400,000.
Cooney also called for adding $750,000 to the road maintenance budget starting this year. That infusion would hike to $1 million by FY2023 and FY2024. The total over a five-year span would by $4.45 million
“This, along with the voter-approved general obligation bonds of $1.8 million in FY2020, would provide adequate funds for ensuring proper maintenance for our roads,” Cooney said. “The $1.8 million will be used to catch up for projects that had not been properly funded in previous fiscal years.”
Cooney thanked the members of the AMC, who likely will not meet again until the summer, for being “willing to give up their free time to help put together this document for you.” He also recognized the support of former Public Works Director Phil Bergeron, Programs Coordinator Kim Jones and current Public Works Director Adam White.
He also thanked Town Manager A. Ralph Mollis, Finance Director Jim Lathrop, Superintendent Phil Auger and Director of Administration Mary King. Cooney said he and Mollis share a similar government philosophy, in that public interaction with government is mostly limited to the roads on which they drive, the playgrounds they visit and so on.
“So when you go to a school and you see a tarp collecting water, you’re at a parent-teacher conference or you go to the third floor of the high school and it’s 90 degrees, or you’re riding down a bumpy road or at an old playground, that doesn’t really look good on us,” Cooney said. “Ralph has done a fantastic job in the past few years of really identifying that that’s something that he wanted to improve.”