by Terry Rogers
At a recent workshop, Milford City Council heard details on the status of Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) approved in late 2020. The projects include those dealing with water, sewer, streets and more. The presentation began with financial data presented by City Financial Director, Lou Vitola.
“We typically show three years because council approvals carry a three-year life,” Vitola said. “In most cases, projects in the inner service funds expire after a year. And, of course, if there’s a large project with some sort of grant agreement or some sort of large purchase commitment or construction contract, then the contract is approved by council, signed by the mayor and the funding is in place. That will have the life of the underlying contract.”
According to documents provided in the packet, the CIP projects total $22.85 million over the three years. The approvals include $1.91 million in FY2020, $4.16 million in FY2021 and $16.78 million in FY2022. Vitola explained that the city was making great progress on projects and that, for a while, it seemed that spending was occurring in “dribs and drabs”
“As you know, we were first dealing with the impacts of COVID,” Vitola said. “And even before we had staffing shortages and impacts of that nature. It really was just kind of a sluggish environment for spending, not just in terms of getting through the projects we were actively completing and pursuing, but also at the start of FY 2021.”
Vitola explained that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding COVID and what its impact will be on revenues, which required many projects to be pushed to the second half of 2021 which is why that year has such a significantly higher amount of funding left to spend. Since some projects were pushed to late 2021, others were pushed into 2022, increasing the balance of funds for that year as well. Some of the projects included in the presentation are funded by a mix of sources.
“A good example of that is the Mispillion Street project which is wrapping up,” Vitola said. “About $500,000 of that $3.8 million that you see spent in total to date is different by $100,000 to $200,000. Some sections of the Mispillion Street project spread out through the divisions, for example. There’s some street work and curb and sidewalk work there, but also some stormwater there and water and sewer rates as part of that project. So, we look at it in terms of one comprehensive project and it is bid that way. We have one streamlined vendor that was doing all the work, but when it comes down to funding, it’s difficult to present it on one consolidated space.”
Vitola also pointed out that there is a lag between when projects begin and when invoicing is issued.
“From time to time, the construction company or the project managers put together an invoice,” Vitola said. “It is signed and notarized and sent to us. We then code it in and pay the invoice. So, there could be as much as a 30, 50-to-60-day timeframe between shovels go in the ground and we have a paper invoice which is when the dollars are reflected in reports. So, even though this report is dated December 31, it is 26 days old already, and those invoices were posted in December for work that may have been done in October.”
Vitola stated that the some of the projects identified by Public Works totaled $1.4 billion which the Finance Department broke down by year. He expected $275,000 in Municipal Street Aid each year and those amounts were reflected in the CIP report. In addition, some of the projects may be eligible for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. He also explained that some of the projects had not been funded yet but were identified as problems.
“We have an existing street assessment that serves to inform us about the priorities of spending for those three lines,” Vitola said. “And we’re actually undertaking a renewed street assessment now that will probably be ready in the next 90 to 120 days. Based on information that gives us, we may be able to review priorities, realign some of the spending.”
After Vitola presented the financial aspects of the CIP projects, Mike Svaby, Director of Public Works, and James Puddicombe, City Engineer, provided details on some of the projects proposed in the city. Svabi explained that the city had hoped to hold off on constructing a pole building until a new electric superintendent could be hired.
“We’re halfway through the year at this point,” Svaby said. “It’s been determined that we’re not going to have an electric superintendent in place shortly. We’re going to move forward with the pole building project and begin to scope that out and get that out.”
Mayor Archie Campbell asked how the search for the electric superintendent was proceeding and Svaby explained that they were consistently reaching out for qualified personnel, but there were not a lot of them out there. Mayor Campbell asked if positions under the electric superintendent had been filled.
“We’re actually full up now in terms of staffing the electric division,” Svaby said. “We have a very good spread of expertise. From the senior most people, you know, qualified journeymen all the way down to ground techs, so that going forward, as attrition occurs with people moving on in their career, we have a good spread of people form the most educated and prepared for those that are coming through the ranks.”
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