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Lanesborough Identifies $14M in Capital Expenses

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
11:21PM / Tuesday, February 11, 2014
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Auditor Tom Scanlon Jr. and Town Accountant Bruce Durwin presented the annual audit to the Selectmen on Monday.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town Administrator Paul Sieloff has identified $14 million worth of capital expenses coming in the next 10 years.

In the next budget, he is hoping to start digging into that backlog with $717,000 through the use of free cash, grants and bonds.

"Over the next 10 years there will be some big expenses," Sieloff told the Selectmen on Monday.

The biggest coming down the line is a projected $9 million to build new or renovate Mount Greylock Regional High School. That is penned in to hit the town's finances in 2019, one year before the bond for the elementary school is paid off.

Another high-cost sector in the next 10 years is eyed to be the Fire Department.

More than $500,000 is budgeted to get a jump-start on those expenses. And the Fire Department is looking to replace its  1986 engine this year.

"It's a big commitment to the town as we all know but it's a 28-year-old vehicle," Sieloff said, adding that he is "actively" seeking grants. "This is a serious number and over the next couple months we will process it."

The department will have to replace a 1987 rescue vehicle, estimated at $200,000, in 2017 followed by a new ambulance in 2019, another new engine (the 1986 Engine 2) in 2021, and a new tanker in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Highway Department will need a vehicle replaced every year from 2016 until 2023. The Highway Department's larger vehicles are all eyed to be replaced before the high school project comes in, with a new grader for $115,000 in 2016; dump truck for $250,000 in 2017 and another dump truck in 2018 for $200,000. The highway garage is also looking at $8,000 for furnace repairs this year.

"My general goal would be that anything $50,000 or less, we use free cash," Sieloff said of the future expenses.

Sieloff is also requesting $40,000 for a new police cruiser in 2015. The police station needs $20,000 for fueling station repairs and $25,000 for roof, furnace, electrical and plumbing renovations.

Town Hall is eyed for $30,000 worth of work, including moldy, flood-damaged walls in the basement and engineering for a retaining wall behind the building. Eight years from now, Town Hall is expected to need $750,000 worth of foundation repairs.

In Sieloff's outlook, he also penned in $500,000 in 2021 for repairs to Lanesborough Elementary School.

The town has six debt items left to pay, Sieloff said, with two of them dropping off in the next few years.

The town administrator has been working on creating a comprehensive list of future capital needs and has previously warned that the town had get started on delayed expenses. Each year, he will look at the finances and try to stick to a plan.

Grants and free cash will play a big role in getting those projects accomplished. However, much of it will have to be bonded.

Also on Monday, the Selectmen received a positive report from the most recent audit. Auditor Tom Scanlon Jr. says the town will be looked at highly from creditors. Scanlon said creditors want to see stabilization and reserve accounts at 10 percent of the budget.

With $623,000 in reserves and $348,000 in certified free cash, the town just about hits the $1 million needed for the 10 percent mark.

Scanlon said the town will want to maintain those reserves for the school project. Bonding agents are "going to look at both towns in their credit rating and reserves," he said.

Scanlon also credited the town for starting another post employee-benefits trust, which sets aside funds to supplement future retiree benefits. The state recently required that liability to be listed on financial reports and having money aside helps with bond ratings. The latest actuary study says the town has $2.7 million in liabilities for future retirees.

"You did adopt an OPEB trust which is good, sound financial practices," Scanlon said.

Overall, the audit had very little negative to say about the town, Scanlon said. The only recommendations were that officials put procedures in place for retirees who later move to jobs in other towns. Towns are responsible for percentages of a municipal employee if that person is employed by other municipalities. However, many towns haven't been sharing that cost and taking on each other's portions.

Scanlon said he would like procedures in place in case other towns do start charging Lanesborough for their portion.

"I'm not a big proponent of the gentleman's handshake," he said.

Another suggestion was the turnover of receipts. Some departments don't receive many receipts and hold onto them for too long as they wait for others to pile up.

Other than those two recommendations,"the town is definitely well managed."

"You do have controls in place and I think Lanesborough has good controls in place," Scanlon said.


Tags: audit,   capital projects,   fiscal 2015,   

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