At a recent meeting, Milford City Council took action on two items related the police department. The first was a request by Chief Cecilia Ashe regarding take home vehicles and the second involved funding for the new police facility.
“As you all are aware in March, I came before city council to request that the police department be able to purchase any type of vehicle not just hybrid vehicles that are available to us. Since that timeframe, over the last several weeks, we were able to purchase a total of eight vehicles,” Chief Ashe said “With the next shipment we received four of the Chevy Tahoes just about a week and a half to two weeks ago. And we were expecting the shipment of the Dodge Chargers that we purchased in August. And then we’ll be outfitting those vehicles in my assessment of the current status of the funding. As you’re aware, one of those requests was made in March due to the significant increase the cost of the vehicles over the last time period since council approved the project in November of 2021. Those vehicles we only have three left to purchase at a total cost of $203,000. This will then complete that project and allow us to start to not only stabilize the police fleet, but also then start to look at cycling out the other vehicles for FY 24 and adding those vehicles into the CIP budget.”
Finance Director Lou Vitola explained that the balance of the program could be funded by ARPA as the city still had $203,000 unencumbered in those funds. Because the take home vehicles fall under the requirements of ARPA, it would make more sense to use those funds rather than adding the additional vehicles to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
“With the budget shaping up the way it is in our preliminary meetings, it would probably be smart to utilize the existing ARPA funding and not use general fund reserves or any other reserves to support the vehicle program,” Vitola said. “We have more than the $203,000, but we’ve encumbered all but $203,000. There was a placeholder after the RTT funding came in to support the vehicle program which allowed us to free up over $300,000 in the funding and we redeployed about $182,000 leaving two or three available to either be absorbed into administrative support, which is an eligible ARPA function. That would be great if we had no projects that went sideways or that experienced cost increases, but we do and this is really what those funds were reserved for.”
Councilman Todd Culotta commended Chief Ashe for taking this project on.
“One thing I’d like to comment and commend Chief Ashe for really taking this and acquiring new vehicles quickly and getting them out running detailed and in the community,” Councilman Culotta said. “You can see these are nice vehicles, they show well for the police department and she’s really stepped up and been very active.”
Councilman Jason James echoed Councilman Culotta’s sentiments.
“I, too, want to commend the chief on keeping the program moving because it was a very important program. When we started, we had specific goals that we want to meet with this program,” Councilman James said. “Also, I wanted to thank the finance director for the fiscal notes that are being added to some of the memos I think as council, when the public would see the fiscal notes that are going to be added, it would answer a lot of questions that may come from council or the public before they ask I think they’re very valuable.”
Council approved the use of ARPA funds for the remainder of the police car project unanimously.
Vitola then presented details on funding for the new police facility.
“I will try to keep this short and sweet. Basically, with two moving parts of the PD financing, one of those being the USDA loan being cut into two portions of $8.5 million and $8 million rather than $16.5 million all at once at the end of the project,” Vitola said. “And the other being the sharp increase in short term rates. We have an opportunity not only to stay within the original capitalized interest budget for the project but also to redirect some of our own internal financing and save as much as $227,000. And that’s a substantial portion of the owners’ contingency budget for the project. And I think we would be remiss not to take advantage of our own cash and get it to work to our own good, so I recommend that we use $5 million in Realty Transfer Tax reserves $2.5 to $3.5 million of electric reserves and zero to half a million dollars each of lodging tax and Economic Development Fund reserves. Each of those last two have a balance of about $550,000 or so.”
Councilman James asked Vitola to explain to both council and those who were attending the meeting that the use of these funds was temporary and that they would be replenished once the USDA loan funds were finalized.
“Absolutely yes, that the funds will only be used until that date, which we close on loan to have to the USDA PD facility community. So, the ball is in motion already. For the first $8.5 million dollar closing we’ve only spent $5.3 million out of the bond,” Vitola said. “So we’ve got time to get documentation together and close on that on that first leg. And that’s the time that we pull from the reserves to pay for the second half of the of the project. And then when the project’s complete, and we close on the second half of the USDA loan, that USDA loan would actually replenish the city’s reserves. Very much like the 2015 sewer project, which was USDA funding and all $4 million of that utilized the city’s internal funds, and it was paid back with a series of USDA loans and grants.”
Council approved the temporary use of reserve funding for the new police facility unanimously.
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