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A 'forecast' of $55M in Westport projects by 2017

Published 1:18 pm, Tuesday, October 2, 2012

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  • The renovation of the Westport Public Library would be the most costly town capital project during the next five years, according to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff's five-year capital forecast. Photo: Paul Schott / Westport News

    The renovation of the Westport Public Library would be the most costly town capital project during the next five years, according to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff's five-year capital forecast.

    Photo: Paul Schott

 

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The Westport of 2017 could include a renovated public library, a new firehouse and refurbished facilities at Compo Beach and Longshore Club Park.

Those projects headline First Selectman Gordon Joseloff's new five-year capital forecast, which was unanimously approved Tuesday morning by the Board of Selectmen. The Planning and Zoning Commission also informally reviewed the forecast last Thursday, although they did not vote on the plan.

"This is a living document and it's a plan to expend," Joseloff said Tuesday.

The capital projects envisioned in Joseloff's forecast would cost a total of $55 million during the next five fiscal years. There is a strong likelihood, however, that many of those major capital undertakings will not be launched in the near future. Instead, the first selectman's forecast functions essentially as a long-term planning document that helps town officials to identify the town's most significant capital needs and estimate the prospective funding for those projects.

Most of the major projects in Joseloff's forecast would be financed either by bonding or the town's Capital & Non-Recurring Fund and require approval by the Representative Town Meeting. The Capital & Non-Recurring Fund currently totals about $4.3 million, with $500,000 of that amount earmarked for Westport Public Library capital expenditures not related to the library's prospective renovation.

A $25 million overhaul of the library would be the town's most expensive capital undertaking during the next five years, according to the first selectman's forecast.

"The intent and plan is to use as much of the existing structure as possible," Maxine Bleiweis, the library's director, said of the library possible refurbishment in an email to the Westport News.

The town's fiscal contribution to that project would be determined by the first selectman, the Representative Town Meeting and the Board of Finance, Bleiweis added. Library officials have not yet released detailed plans for the project.

Public safety capital investments would cost a total of approximately $8.8 million, an outlay that would be mostly directed to fire department projects. The possible replacement of the firehouse on Riverside Avenue would be the fire department's most expensive capital project. A new firehouse would cost approximately $4.5 million, according to Joseloff's forecast. Ahead of that project's start, Joseloff's forecast includes anticipates a $200,000 funding request during the current fiscal year for a study of the town's firehouses.

Marine police boat expenditures totaling $450,000 would account for the most expensive capital investment by the Police Department during the next five years.

A $4 million bonding allocation for a range of improvements at Longshore Club Park, including possibly a new clubhouse, would be the most expensive Parks and Recreation Department project. Other major Parks and Rec initiatives could include a stabilization of the basin shore adjacent to Compo Beach and replacement of bathhouses at Compo Beach.

"It's a re-investment by the town into its facilities," Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy said Monday. "You need to look at what's next. These are either maintenance or updating and enhancing these properties. With Longshore and Compo Beach, we want to maximize the potential of these incredibly valuable town resources."

Another major waterway improvement project, the dredging of the Saugatuck River, would cost $2.5 million, according to Joseloff's forecast.

Other major public works projects planned during the next five years include an $800,000 replacement of the Town Hall roof and culvert improvements at Sasco Creek and Deadman's Brook, which would respectively cost $400,000 and $800,000. Each of those projects would be bonded.

School projects would cost a total of about $12.5 million during the next five years. An approximately $1.9 million bonding request to replace all windows, window coverings and exterior doors at Long Lots Elementary School would account for the most costly school project. Joseloff's forecast also envisions about $790,000 for a new roof at Saugatuck Elementary School, $730,000 to replace classroom casework at Coleytown Elementary School and $675,000 to replace existing building ventilation at Staples High School.

Siding with Joseloff, Republican Selectman Charles Haberstroh indicated he would consider supporting town funding for major capital projects during the next five years.

"I share Gordon's thought that while the Fed[eral Reserve] has said they're going to keep interest rates through 2015, if the economic situation were to change dramatically, they wouldn't hesitate to change the interest rate forecast," he said. "To the extent that it makes sense for us from an operating and funding point-of-view, we should certainly try to do those things at lower interest rates, if possible."

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott