LEWISTON — The City Council will vote Tuesday to approve Lewiston’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan worth $98 million. 

The plan calls for $25.3 million in projects for the 2017-18 fiscal year, set to begin in July. That includes spending for road and Public Works projects, city equipment and vehicles, water, sewer and storm sewer utilities and the School Department.

The city began reviewing the plan’s details in January. The five-year outlook is not considered a spending plan but a to-do list of city purchases. It can be adjusted, possibly pushing some projects or purchases back and delaying them for years. The City Council approves each purchase. 

The City Charter requires that the capital improvement program be prepared annually, reviewed by the Planning Board, Finance Committee and City Council, and be adopted by the City Council at least four months prior to the end of the current fiscal year. 

Among the big-ticket items planned for next year is $10.7 million for phase 2 of the Lincoln Street parking garage, which may be pushed to fiscal 2018-19 because of a one-year extension between the city and the developer of Bates Mill No. 5.

Also included is $3.2 million in street and sidewalk maintenance, $1.4 million in municipal vehicle and equipment replacement, $1.9 million in water main rehab and $1 million in channel upgrades to Jepson Brook. 

In his memo to the council, City Administrator Ed Barrett describes the CIP as “an important and necessary planning tool for the city’s consideration in addressing financial, infrastructure, and development issues.”

However, he said, the CIP is only a “tool,” not a funded budget, and added that the City Council has the final authority over which projects are funded and which are not.

“In these economic times and given the city’s overall debt and fiscal posture, it may be difficult to either afford or fully fund all of the scheduled LCIP projects,” he said. 

According to the CIP document, Lewiston’s outstanding issued and authorized debt is more than $201 million. Barrett said Lewiston’s ability to fund capital purchases through the annual operating budget became more difficult during the recent recession, meaning the city instead bonded more projects. 

“While pressure remains on the city’s operating budget due to the aftereffects of the economic downturn and the continuing state raids on local funding, staff will closely evaluate the potential to fund all or portions of some of the proposed bond projects through the operating budget,” Barrett said. 

In its recent review of the CIP, the Finance Committee, led by Chairman Robert Reed, said it’s concerned over the city’s level of debt, as well as for capital items that appear on the CIP each year, “despite the suggestions of better options.” 

“We remain concerned over the level of debt held by our city,” Reed said in his comments to the council. “While much good work has been done to restructure and/or pay off several bonds, we wish to remind the council that there are three very large items which will add significant debt to our city.”

Those projects, he said, are the Lincoln Street parking garage phase 2, Fire Department substations and road improvements. 

The Planning Board suggested the council move the Lincoln Street parking garage project to fiscal year 2018-19 “given the uncertainty with the redevelopment of Bates Mill No. 5.” 

Historically, the number of projects councilors authorize each year is much less than the CIP calls for. The City Council has previously held a workshop and a public hearing to review the plan. No one from the public spoke during the hearing last week. 

The plan is available online on the city’s website

[email protected]

This chart summarizes the proposed use of local funds for the first year of Lewiston’s updated Capital Improvement Plan (fiscal 2017-18), as well as the total over the full five-year period:             

Area  FY2018 FY2018-FY2022
City bond issue $17,227,885  $57,303,885 
City operating budget $601,400  $1,671,025 
School bond issue $702,000  $1,602,000 
Water bond issue $1,995,000  $15,585,000 
Water operating budget $412,250  $1,984,250
Sewer operating budget $220,250  $682,250 
Sewer bond issue $2,305,000  $10,730,000 
Sewer impact fees $55,000  $137,500 
Storm water operating budget $124,500  $425,900 
Storm water bond issue $1,740,000  $7,853,000 
TOTAL  $25,383,285  $97,977,910

Source: Memo from city administration 

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