City identifies $26 million in capital projects

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The 2014 to 2018 capital improvement plan costs $25.7 million for 56 projects. The plan, which is based on a five-year outlook, is put together by the city planner as a suggestion for the City Council as they prepare for budget season. One aspect of the plan involves sewer improvements on Purchase Street. File photo

Rye’s charter requires that, every year, the city create a multi-year Capital Improvement Plan, a rolling five-year document that identifies and prioritizes potential major projects and capital needs as well as delineates costs, possible funding sources and projected time frames.

City Planner Christian Miller presented the 2014 to 2018 plan to the City Council at its Aug, 5 meeting so council members could use it as spending suggestions to prep for the budget process in the fall, he said.

The City of Rye has a long list of infrastructure elements, but many of these are old: 53 miles of sanitary sewer lines, 45 miles of sidewalks, 30 or more miles of storm drains, 1,400 drainage catch basins, 15 city buildings and 100 or more city vehicles, Miller said.

“Much of the infrastructure that was developed for the city was when it became a village in 1908, and some of that stuff is still there today,” Miller said.

The plan is for a wish list of 56 projects that totals $25.7 million. The list is comprised of $14.6 million on transportation projects, $5.8 million on recreation projects, $2.7 million on building projects, $1.7 million on sewer projections and $800,000 on drainage projects. The CIP also identifies an additional $5.3 million in vehicle and equipment needs. There are no specific flood mitigation projects in this year’s plan.

Miller said the largest portions of funding, or about half of the $26 million, will come from grants and aid. General revenues, the addition of new debt and fund balance are possible other sources of funding.

“It’s become a very competitive environment,” said Miller.

Fortunately for the city, the plan’s cost and content is very similar to last year, and the $1.8 million bond issue approved by voters in November 2012 allowed for some greater use of debt in this current plan such as adding new crosswalks at Midland School, a project that will begin this month.

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At some point, the city will need to invest in its outdated police headquarters, seen here on McCullough Place, a building first constructed in the 1920s. File photo

Another piece of good news is that the city got some help with fund balance with the $5.6 million sale of 1037 Boston Post Road in May to a real estate holding and gasoline distribution company. The building and vehicle fund now has a surplus of $4 million due to that sale, Miller said. The situation is “no longer as bleak,” which is good news as the fund balance had been deteriorating in previous years.

Miller said he has a philosophy when it comes to capital improvements, upgrades and repairs: don’t be afraid to do a little more. He urged the City Council to think of long-term needs. Capital projects do not often fit into a one-year budget cycle and they should not, he said.

Other capital projects the planner proposed the city undertake over the next five years include improvements for public parks. Miller said the city’s Parks Department has very expensive parks equipment that is unnecessarily exposed to the elements. Other projects involve enterprise funds, including dredging projects at the boat basin, and work at the golf club.

The planner identified $450,000 in capital needs for the golf club, while the boat basin plan has accrued a $450,000 bill toward dredging, which the city is hoping to fast track to achieve a 90 percent reimbursement from FEMA. Currently, the city is trying to get permits for a second round of dredging to complete the 29,000 cubic yard project.

“The cost of dredging has really skyrocketed,” Miller said, and disposal regulations have become stricter. But the outlook for the future looks good, City Manager Scott Pickup said, due to the addition of a new sump, or large holding area intended to collect silt at the mouth of the Blind Brook that feeds into the boat basin. The sump will allow the city to potentially make use of the material that builds up there, cutting down on the need to initiate huge dredging projects that require the material to be carted out to a dump site, he said.

Pickup said it is important for the public to be aware of the age of some of the city’s outdated facilities and infrastructure, like sewers and buildings, as many of them are still their original incarnations.

The city’s DPW garages are 1940s and 1950s vintages, while the police station was built in the 1920s as a garage, according to Pickup.

The idea should be “not to create any blame or to say it was anybody’s fault that they didn’t maintain it. Just to say those are factors,” Pickup said. “We have to be vigilant; spend the money, spend it wisely…and leave a legacy that we improved it where we could.”

Mayor Douglas French, a Republican, said the biggest complaint he hears from citizens is the city needs to invest more in its streets.

Pickup said the city’s finances show the administration has invested a lot in the streets, for example, the upcoming paving on Boston Post Road, but some of Rye’s other high profile streets are in poor condition.

However, the catch is that of these, Midland and Theodore Fremd avenues are Westchester County-owned roads over which the city has no jurisdiction.

Miller said the highest priority project for the city is currently the Locust Avenue sewer project.

Locust Avenue’s siphon replacement for the sewer project was funded in the 2012 bond referendum and can be fixed in conjunction with the Purchase Street sewer system.

Contact: liz@hometwn.com

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About Liz Button

Liz Button is a staff reporter for Hometown Media Group’s The Rye Sound Shore Review. Previously, she covered Bedford and Mount Kisco for The Daily Voice, an Internet-based, hyperlocal publication. She’s also written for Patch in her hometown of Trumbull, Conn., as a freelance reporter and fill-in editor. Preceding her time there, she worked in publishing in New York City. She is a 2008 graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in English. Reach Liz at 914-653-1000 x20 or liz@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @ryesoundshore.