$70-million, 6-year spending plan includes school roofs, library expansion and public works facility

$70-million, 6-year spending plan includes school roofs, library expansion and public works facility

Taxpayers may comment at Dec. 3 hearing

SMITHFIELD - Taxpayers will have a chance Dec. 3 to comment on a six-year, $69.9-million capital spending plan that for 2015 calls for $31.3 million in projects including $9.6 million for expansion of the Greenville Public Library, $7.5 million for school repairs, $6.4 million to expand the police station, and $4 million for construction of a north end fire station.

Major items in the six-year plan submitted by Town Manager Dennis Finlay, covering the years 2015-2020, would be financed by a long-term bond issue if approved first by the Town Council and later by voters at the 2014 general election.

In submitting his capital budget requests to the council, which he is required to do every other year, Finlay stressed that his capital improvements plan by itself does not authorize any spending or appropriate any money.

However, he has warned from time to time that the town's physical plant has not kept up with the need for public services.

In his "State of the Town" talk before community leaders last January, Finlay said that while Smithfield is financially stable, it faces daunting challenges in dealing with aging public buildings and infrastructure and "It's not going to be pretty when the numbers start coming in."

As part of a 100-page capital plan that he handed the council Nov. 5, the numbers came in.

According to Finance Director Randy R. Rossi, of the nearly $70-million in suggested total spending through 2020, $45 million would be financed by bond issue if all the major items are approved as submitted, although that is considered unlikely.

Even Finlay himself, in his memo to the council, referred to the plan as a "budgeting tool" that outlines the community's physical needs, but also recognizes financial constraints.

He said he developed his priorities after receiving requests from department heads and consulting with Rossi on financial projections.

Requests from the School Committee, which has separate budgeting authority, were included as submitted, Finlay said.

More than half of the school district's proposed capital spending for 2015 is for roof replacement at the high school and middle school.

In addition to the major items listed for 2015, Finlay proposes $3 million for a road repaving program in 2016 and $6.75 million for replacement of the Public Works facility in 2020.

Rossi said it's within the Town Council's authority to accept or reject any of the proposals for ballot inclusion, or to move them from one year to another over the six years depending on the town's financial situation and whether bond interest rates are favorable at any given time.

Rossi said it's likely that once town authorities agree on which bonding projects should go forward, voters would be asked to consider them in a single election, although balloting could be structured to allow separate decisions on individual items.

Even with voter authorization in hand, he said, the Town Council would still be free to delay some of the spending if financial constraints intervened.

Police and library officials have said for years that their facilities are seriously inadequate, and town authorities have also been saying over an extended period that a new fire station in the north end is needed, although a site has not yet been acquired.

According to Finlay, if a new station is authorized the manpower and equipment from the Log Road station will be moved there, with Log Road to become an enhanced training facility. He said response times to the Log Road area would still be acceptable.

The capital plan also calls for the non-bonded replacement of the Mountaindale Road Bridge for $650,000 in 2016 and the Esmond Mill Drive Bridge for $1.5 million in 2017. The money would come from the general fund and impact fees paid the town by developers.

Financed by the same sources would be $825,000 to expand parking at Deerfield Park in 2017.

Over the six years, the School Department seeks $12.1 million in renovations and repairs, with the high school roof costing $3.7 million and the middle school roof at nearly $1.5 million.

Other school expenses include replacing the administration building roof at nearly $394,000 in 2015, and a variety of other projects across the district ranging from boiler upgrades to parking lot repaving to classroom furniture replacement.

The council has set a public hearing on the capital plan for its regular meeting of Dec. 3, which begins at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.