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Town approves capital plan

HOULTON, Maine — Town Councilors on Monday evening approved a five-year capital plan for the community.

The council reviews and approves the capital plan each year as it addresses short- and long-term projects that it would like to accomplish in the community and discusses ways that it could fund them.

Town Manager William MacDonald told the group that this was the first time that he had put together the capital plan for the community and praised the department heads for working together to compose a list and help prioritize items.

There are more than $3 million worth of projects in the five-year plan, according to MacDonald. Some of those costs have been discussed with purveyors, while others are rough estimates, according to the manager.

“A lot of what is on this capital plan has been inherited,” he said, noting that a number of projects have been on the report for several years and the town simply hasn’t been able to fund them.

Some of the big-ticket items include dump trucks for the Houlton Public Works Department. There are two 1995 Ford dump trucks and a 1993 International truck that Chris Stewart, superintendent of the department, said have frames that are rusted so badly that they will no longer pass inspection.

The fire and ambulance department’s $25,000 request for the installation of heat pumps and air conditioning has been on the list for several years. There is only sporadic air conditioning in some parts of the building that is not cooling the facility effectively. The fire department also needs to replace its worn 16-year-old turnout gear at an estimated cost of $75,000.

The Millar Civic Center is in need of emergency exit canopies to protect visitors from falling snow. The parking lot also needs to be repaved.

At the police department, Chief Tim Deluca has suggested buying one new cruiser in 2019 and two in 2020 to better control excessive vehicle maintenance inherent with high-mileage cruisers. A building for file storage is also on the list, he said, due to lack of space in the building.

Councilor Rosa McNally said she believed some of the pending items should be prioritized due to safety.

“Some of these that are on here do concern me, especially around the safety aspect,” she said. “Some of these projects are too massive to do right now, but we as a council could prioritize.”

MacDonald agreed, especially with the potential for ice and snow to fall from the civic center’s roof. He noted that some of the safety issues would be addressed since the town just approved a repair project at the Gentle Memorial Building to remove asbestos-laden siding and replace a number of windows with energy-efficient ones.

Both McNally and Councilor Sue Tortello noted that the town could pursue alternative funding sources or potentially secure equipment from the state or federal government. During the recent meeting, the council accepted a diesel generator from the federal Department of Defense that was from its surplus equipment program. It is valued at $20,000.

“Chief Deluca has been amazingly successful about getting equipment for us,” said Tortello.

“Chris Stewart also has done a phenomenal job at getting good prices as well,” she said.

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