Milford City Council recently continued discussing the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the next five years. The plan includes capital improvement projects of $16,772,044 in 2024, $27,784,735 in 2025, $21,699,063 in 2026, $15798,361 in 2027 and $4,804,080 in 2028. Before discussing the projects, City Manager Mark Whitfield explained that the CIP, including projects, costs and timelines were requests and not a spending plan.
“It’s not a budget, we have put numbers to it obviously, but the actual allocation of dollars will come at a time when we prepare the operating budget and then we will actually put dollars toward the plan,” Whitfield said. “Some of those dollars may end up being grant dollars or potential grant dollars. I think we have a lot of projects on here. Quite honestly, I’m not sure unless we’ve found that pot of gold in the bottom desk drawer, we’re going to be able to do all these projects unless we get some help through bond bill or other grant funding.”
The CIP included projects such as bike paths on Route 113 and Cedar Creek Road as well as a maintenance building for the new police station. Public Wi-Fi along the Riverwalk that would be available for festivals and residents in the downtown area was also included in the plan. Development of the Marshall Pond Riverbank and additional open space development was also included in the list of projects. Riverwalk improvements, a Walnut Street pedestrian crossing and additional LED streetlight replacement were also included in the plan.
Whitfield explained there was no requirement in the city charter for council to approve the plan, but he was requesting council’s blessing as staff moves into the budget preparation process.
“Really what we need is your concurrence that the projects are within the scope of what you want to see done aligns with our strategic plan, that the timing of the projects are what you want to see and again in alignment with the strategic plan and that we will continue to work towards the endeavor above all the current year projects as well as those future your projects,” Whitfield stated.
Councilman Jason James was unclear why council needed to vote on the CIP since the projects would be included in the annual budget process.
“We can say we’d like to plan something but because there are no resolutions required, why do a resolution when it can change,” Councilman James said. “I think the resolution is not required because the 2024 capital improvement budget will be a part of the operating budget, which is important to council for a couple of reasons. Because when there are capital items in there, that are of the nature that will depreciate over years, that depreciation amount will be compared and will become part of the equipment replacement. That could affect the equipment replacement line and the operating budget. So I really don’t see the necessity of this adoption of this resolution.”
Lou Vitola, Finance Director, stated that although Councilman James was correct, the financial procedure the city followed over the past few years included confirming a CIP. It also provides credibility to organizations who grant or lend money to the city for projects as it indicates the city communicates at a high level.
“It shows there is support for these handful of projects in there as we planned out in these years with these funding sources. Some we have sufficient funding for, others we don’t. When we say “we need your grant funding,” they know Lou Vitola or another administrator at the city isn’t isn’t going astray and for lack of a better term, just applying for any old grant, anytime to suit the needs of his or her individual department. But that it’s satisfying a capital improvement plan not a budget but a capital improvement plan. That it’s been published in the in public and discussed on the floor and approved by city council. Those are two reasons I see value in approving the plan.”
Councilman James felt that if the city manager had a five year plan that council could evaluate periodically, that would give council the opportunity to speak up about any changes in the plan, but that a resolution did not seem to be necessary.
“My second comment is that we were presented this in a workshop, a proposed plan. And I think there was probably changes to that plan,” Councilman James said. “And I don’t know what those changes are. I haven’t had a chance to review it in any detail. I don’t know what those changes are in the presentation that pertain to this resolution that we’re speaking of on this council item at this particular time.”
City Solicitor David Rutt explained that the city charter did require council to approve a CIP by the start of the next fiscal year, which meant it needed to be approved before July 1.
“There’s two things. It should be submitted along with the budget. We don’t have an operating budget to measure how this will affect the operating budget is especially fiscal year 2024,” Councilman James said. “Council would be adopting that resolution blindly. And I know that we will say “well, this is the plan but the actual budget will be presented along with the operating budget. Well, if that’s the case, then what is the expediency of adopting this resolution without knowing the impact that it has on the operating budget for fiscal 2024?”
Whitfield explained that the expediency was to be sure that the projects listed in the CIP were what council felt were important projects moving forward.
“If there is inconsistencies with what was presented at the workshop and what we have here tonight, I think they need to be pointed out and discussed,” Councilman Todd Culotta said. “I know there was some discussion about police cars. I know there were a couple items. I don’t have both in front of me or I could do that. But, if we could get that redlined with changes from the workshop, I think that would be ideal.”
Councilman Mike Boyle agreed with Councilman James that there had been changes to the CIP since the workshop and some of them had an impact on what council wanted to see included in future budgets.
“If there’s a significant variance, we ought to be made aware of that and given the time to discuss it,” Councilman Boyle said. “So I would recommend we table this either for a workshop or the next council meeting. And we go over this where there are significant changes and I mean maybe more than five percent that we need to see what it was, why it was and how it impacts what we vision we want to accomplish next year.”
Council voted to table approval of the CIP unanimously until details on changes from the workshop were provided. The CIP can be viewed by visiting https://www.cityofmilford.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3964 and scrolling to page 107.
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