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Pushing for the Community Center

Order of Road Projects Questioned

The Planning Commission has decided it needs more time to mull over the proposed capital improvement program, scheduling a work session for Monday, March 29, after receiving a fiscal forecast and a plea from Parks and Recreation director Art Anselene for the final phase of the Community Center renovation on Monday.

In all, the proposed CIP contains 41 projects totaling more than $38 million over the next six years. The Planning Commission is expected to suggest a priority for the projects Monday, April 5, to the Town Council.

"This project is one that really gets down to providing services on a day-by-day basis," Anselene said of the renovation project. "… Everything else, the land acquisition for the arts center and 387 Herndon Parkway, has jumped in there in our place."

ANSELENE IS HOPING to receive $3.5 million in FY '05 instead of the projected $300,000, which would only cover site work. Should the entire sum be approved, $300,000 would also need to be applied to FY '06 to cover the cost of repaying the loan.

The final phase of renovations, which would add 12,000 square feet to the Ferndale Road facility, was to be financed in part by bonds issued this year, however, that money was diverted to the purchase of 397 Herndon Parkway, which will be the new police station.

Anselene suggested the money could come from the undesignated fund balance or even bonds in fiscal year 2005. However, Mary Tuohy, the town's finance director, is recommending the town put off going to the bond market until fiscal year 2006.

"I think going back to the bond market in FY '05 is too soon," Tuohy said. "I don't want to risk a downgrade [of our bonding rating] on the town and I think it could happen."

THE COMMUNITY CENTER is not the only project jockeying for funds. In all, 11 projects are proposed to receive at least partial funding, including park improvements, storm drainage improvements, vehicle replacements, information technology, minor road improvements, the arts center, police station and the community center.

The lack of larger-scale road improvements in FY '05 caught the eye of some commissioners.

"What is the rational behind the placement of Station Street and Monroe Street? They've been on the books for at least four or five years," asked Commissioner Theodore Hochstein.

The proposed CIP has funds allotted to Station Street improvements in FY '08 and the Park-Monroe intersection improvements in FY '10.

"Station Street is the gateway to the town and it's an eye sore. And look at Park and Monroe, nobody could tell me that is not a dangerous situation," Hochstein said.

The CIP places the Center Street alignment ahead of all the road enhancement projects, which has anticipated funding in FY '07. Bob Boxer, the public works director, said the decision was made to make Center Street a priority because of downtown development currently underway. In addition, he said Station Street is not a safety issue.

"Our concern with Center Street was with the development at Fortnightly and how that traffic will get out onto Elden Street," Boxer said.

Boxer said the only problem with pushing Center Street back and moving Station Street up is money. Center Street is proposed to receive $180,000 in FY '07 and another $760,000 in FY '10. Station Street is slated for $105,000 in FY '08 and $650,000 in FY '10. The Park-Monroe intersection, by contrast would receive its first influx of funding — $145,000 — in FY '10 and the remaining — $690,000 — beyond that.

"It's not having enough money to do what we want to do," Boxer said.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed CIP April 5, at which time the commission is expected to make its suggestions for the priority of the projects to forward to the Town Council.