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Salem revives capital improvements group, CIP process

Union Leader Correspondent

August 15. 2018 10:11PM
Salem Fire Department Assistant Chief Larry Best,left, presents capital projects to the CIP Committee in Assistant Town Manager Andre Garron’s office. Garron is pictured at right. (RYAN LESSARD)

SALEM — After several years without a Capital Improvement Plan committee, Assistant Town Manager Andre Garron convened the first CIP committee meeting on Tuesday to review major spending projects on the wishlists of various town departments.

While the CIP process was dormant, Garron said departments would submit their capital budgets alongside their operating budgets without having them vetted first. Now, departments must first present their capital projects before the committee, which makes recommendations for the town manager and ultimately the board of selectmen to vote on.

Garron said this process makes sure the town is being more efficient with its spending. He made bringing the CIP process back part of his mission after starting as Assistant Town Manager about two years ago.

For now, the committee is made up of Garron, Finance Director Nicole McGee, Community Development Coordinator Karri Makinen and planning board member Ed DeClercq. Garron hopes to expand the committee in the future with more representatives from different governing boards.

The first meeting took place in Garron’s office, making the process more intimate and casual, as committee members asked questions of representatives for the police, fire and municipal services departments who appeared at separate times throughout the day.

Capt. Joel Dolan with the Salem Police Department presented projects for the next five years that included a new police station (estimated at $15 million), the replacement of about a dozen leased police cruisers ($483,965), refurbishing their dispatch center ($84,000) and a new recording system for interview rooms (about $12,500).

Dolan said they have one room currently outfitted with recording equipment but it’s not user friendly.

“That system is old and outdated,” Dolan said.

The police station was slated for 2023. During the meeting, Garron recommended putting some money aside for preliminary engineering in an earlier year since the cost figure was an estimate.

Assistant Chief Larry Best presented the wishlist for the Salem Fire Department. He presented a list of 20 items totalling more than $10.8 million between 2019 and 2023. The largest line item was $4.5 million to build and out fit a new fire facility, plus $1.5 million for land procurement.

Besides that, Best said the other two biggest priorities were a new fire engine ($750,221) and a new staff vehicle ($47,895). Those were slated for fiscal year 2019. Another engine ($1 million) was slated for 2020.

In later years, the department also wants to buy three ambulances, each about $350,000, a few more staff cars and another engine ($825,243).

Director of Municipal Services Roy Sorenson and Director of Engineering Dan Hudson presented the capital projects for municipal services.

The Engineering Department had about $40 million in projects for the next five years. The Department of Public Works had projects ranging from fleet replacements to a new access road for the transfer station totalling about $20 million over the next five years.

After department representatives gave their presentations, the committee discussed which items would likely be deferred.

“We have a lot to talk about,” Garron said.

The next CIP meeting is Thursday, Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. The committee will give their report to the town manager, Chris Dillon, on Friday so he has the CIP draft around the same time he receives the operating budgets.

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