(3/2013) Well, happy March everyone! I hope the groundhog is right and spring comes sooner rather than later. That full tank of gas in the snow blower will keep just fine… I’ll leave the potentially bigger news stories, such as the departure of Commissioner Glenn Blanchard and the appointment of former Mayor Jim Hoover to take his place,
for others to cover in this issue of the paper. There were some important "money" discussions that took place in February and I would like to focus on those instead.
The possibility of replacing standard light bulbs (in streetlights and at town buildings) with high efficiency LED fixtures has been floating around for a number of years. From time to time, samples were tried throughout town but no real traction was ever achieved. Mayor Don Briggs breathed some new life into the effort later last year,
developing a proposal in partnership with an acquaintance met in Frederick to implement the swap with a $112,000 budget. Fortunately for the taxpayer, we are not allowed to just ‘pick the winners’ without putting these projects out for competitive bid. This is a requirement of the town ordinances we elected officials (and town staff for that matter…) are sworn to
Therefore, back in December, the Board required that the proper process be followed. The results were reported by the town manager at the mid February meeting: a revised project cost of only $77,000 representing a savings of over THIRTY PERCENT from the Mayor’s original proposal. Even better news: the money spent should be recouped in three
years via reduced electricity consumption and lower repair and replacement costs. After that time, the savings will continue to boost town revenue, resulting in the same amount of savings as $0.02 of property tax income.
The "Process" that your town government follows is important – especially in the context of the second big project discussed in February: the financial costs of the town square redesign project. I’ll rely on the details of the design being covered in other areas and focus mainly on the financing considerations here.
The town has already dedicated $20,000 in cash (plus an equivalent amount of grant money) to fund the design project. For this we have received a design concept plan that meets most of our goals. I think an outside partner was critical to create a fresh start and a fresh perspective. To turn this plan into viable construction drawings
requires the commitment of an additional $23,000 in cash (plus, once again, an equivalent amount of grant funding). The Board has chosen to allocate this initial $43,000 in cash contributions from our "Fund Balance" which represents our accumulated savings over the last decade for lack of a better term.
At the mid February meeting the construction estimates were finally revealed; improvements to the immediate town square area are estimated at $460,000. A further $155,000 is estimated for additional features located at key points on East and West Main Street. Once again, I am hoping you have the opportunity to view artist renderings on
other pages of this issue! The reality is that these improvements will probably be pursued in stages over some period of time.
While the COSTS of the program were presented, the Board received no specific recommendations from the Mayor and town staff on how this project might be funded. With completion of the construction drawings, developing a budget would be the next logical step. While the exact path has not yet been charted, I felt it was reasonable to suggest
that no elements be undertaken without 55% grant or donation funding. This would roughly follow the pattern of our previous spending, drive public and private partnership, and reduce the cash cost of the immediate town square improvements to a more manageable $200,000 in town funds over an undefined period of time.
So where do we go from here? My understanding is that with the completion of the construction drawings we will have the documentation necessary to apply for grant funding. The town may solicit contributions from private individuals and community groups for specific project elements. And we should all, as a group, try to determine an order
of progression. As always, please keep an eye out for opportunities to contribute and don’t hesitate to share your opinions with your elected official by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Read other articles by Chris Staiger