A significant part of the town's proposed 11 percent budget increase comes from the Public Works Department's request to more than double is capital budget, from $1.4 million in 2012-13 to $2.9 million in 2013-14.
Assistant Director of Public Works Tiger Mann explained the reasons for the higher expenditures at the Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday morning, Jan. 22.
Mann noted that while increase is large considering the 2012-13 budget, it only increased 38 percent from the 2011-12 budget. He added that the department's operating budget request is .35 percent above 2012-13
The biggest expenditures in the Public Works budget are: upgrades for the firehouse; parking lot and sidewalk repaving; and new trucks, including a dump truck/sander.
According to Mann, major sections of the firehouse have not been upgraded since the building was constructed in 1937, including electrical and sanitary facilities. The cost of renovations at the firehouse is projected to be $575,000.
The department also asked for $300,000 for parking lot and $250,000 for sidewalk maintenance. Mann said the department performed a study and computed an index of state of town sidewalks and parking lots. The sidewalks received a PCI rating of 77.5. The parking lots received a grade of 72.2. Mann said a score in the mid-80s would be ideal, and that the state of the parking lots in town is below where it should be.
The selectmen were not as circumspect.
"The commuter parking lots are not in the best shape," First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said.
Selectman Nick Williams went a step further, calling the lots "a disaster."
Mallozzi pointed out that commuters are the backbone of the town's community and tax base.
Mann said the commuter lots haven't seen improvements since 2001. He noted that spending levels over the previous 10 years were low until the past few years, and that if spending had continued at low levels, the PCI of public lots would be at 55 percent today.
The department requested $190,000 for a new loader truck and $187,000 for a new dump truck/sander. The loader is from 1992 and the dump truck from 1990. Public Works Director Mike Pastore said both trucks have rotted baseboards, adding that the street is visible through the bottom of the cab. Mann added that on one of the trucks, fumes come into the cab, and a driver can't stay in the cab for a whole day because of the fumes. Superintendent of Highway Administration Bill Oestmann said that they tried to weld the bottom of the trucks, but found there wasn't enough metal to weld onto.
The selectmen expressed that they were not satisfied with New Canaan's trucks being in such a state of disrepair.
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