Public works committee budget review

The Tuesday night meeting was called to review the 2013 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Infrastructure and other items were reviewed. Mike Lemens, the city’s public works director, opened the meeting with a few introductory remarks. He said that “they are taking an approach similar to last year. They are being cautious with increases. They looked at their needs and where cuts could be made. They came in very close to administration’s target.

Lemens continued, “The CIP has presented some challenges with needs. The funding has increased over the five-year plan. Some areas have gone down a little. The mayor’s goal has been to increase funding on infrastructure needs, street work. Four major projects have been completed. With the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) work, resurfacing has definitely been needed.  It extends the amount of work that can be done. A reduction in street resurfacing equals out our borrowing.”

Mayor Keith Bosman said that there is $11.4 million in the CIP budget each year. They’ve reduced the resurfacing for the first two years. “Before, there was $1.1 million to $1.2 million per year. Now, we plan to spend $2 million per year; we’re playing catch-up,” he said. “The money is now $1.2 million to $1.4 million for general resurfacing. There’s nothing monumental here,” said Bosman. City administrator, Frank Pacetti, said that the director’s comments were on point.

Chairman Eric Haugaard started going through the budget page by page. Alderperson G. John Ruffolo asked about the miscellaneous right-of-ways. Forty thousand dollars ($40,000) has been allocated in the budget for this item. Ruffolo wanted to know if this money was usually spent.  Lemens said that many years, it’s not spent at all.  It’s for widening rights-of-way.

Bosman said that last year $770,000 was budgeted for sidewalk repair.  They are continuing to maintain that level.  They are playing catch-up on sidewalks.  Alderperson Steve Bostrom noticed that the amounts for resurfacing and construction in 2012, 2013, and 2014 were down.  Then they returned to the same levels in 2015 and 2016 as they were in 2012.  He wanted to know why there was such a dramatic dip, then it goes up again.  Bosman said it was “political.  In 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, $1.2 million was spent on resurfacing.  In the years from 2008 through 2012, it was $2.4 million to $2.5 million.  In 2015, 2016, and 2017, it goes back up.  It’s to level off the borrowing.  Other projects take away from reconstructing the streets.”  He said that we’ve made significant progress over the last four years, on 60th Street, 56th Street.  “Taking away $11.4 million a year, something had to go,” Bosman said.

Bostrom asked for a detailed list of what streets would be resurfaced next year.  Lemens said that they have some proposals, but no list has been placed in the CIP this year.  Lemens also said that “there are a lot more streets that need work than we have money.  City administrator Frank Pacetti said that, “even if we had unlimited funds, the staff we have available would limit the work.  It’s really hard to prioritize the work.  Candidate streets get changed.  Priorities change.  And, sometimes construction needs take priority over our prioritized list.”  Pacetti said that this was the second year that the list was not included in the CIP.  Public Works promised to share the list as soon as possible.

Bostrom asked if we should wait until after winter.  “Does that change how we put projects out to bid?  Does it change our policy?”  Lemens responded that “Yes, the earlier the bids are put out, the better pricing can be.  But, that’s not always the case.  We can’t start construction until the spring.  There’s always an extra project or two.  The funding from the government can change, and that can affect the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.  Funding can change.  This year, we’re able to increase the size of the program.  We don’t typically start projects around schools until after Memorial Day.  Then, they go out for bids.”  Pacetti said that resurfacing projects are usually more simpler.

Ruffolo said that “In past administrations, the streets were in the hopper as soon as the budget got approved.  We were able to get better prices.  It was showed to me many times.  I think we should get this out sooner rather than later.”  Haugaard agreed.

Ruffolo also asked about the area of 56th Street and Sheridan Road, and 13th Avenue, and in front of the courthouse.  Bosman said that they wanted to get it done this year.  The sidewalks, the landmark lighting, and the curs.  Ruffolo said that it was not in the prior CIP.  Lemens said that the street was on the candidate list for future years.  It’s a separate CIP line item for 2013.  “In a way, it was part of the resurfacing,” he said.

Ruffolo then talked about taking down the light poles.  If it was just 4 or 5 poles, how could it cost $160,000?  “That’s a big number,” he said.  “People are always telling me how lit up that boulevard is.  There is no activity in that area at night (in front of the civic center, the court house, and the administration building).  Why are there so many lights?” he wanted to know.  Lemens said that he didn’t have the number handy.  Pacetti said that they are just taking the light poles down; they are not being replaced.  “It should have been done in the past, but it never was.”  Ruffolo said something about a grant for the work on the viaduct west.  “But, it only covered lighting of the boulevard on one side of the street.”

Ruffolo then talked about the $25,000 in the budget every year for carpeting.  “I know that this year they re-did the Human Resources Department,” he said, “but was it all spent?  In the City Planning Department, there is duct tape, and these can create trip hazards.”  Pacetti replied that the last couple of years, the Council chambers was re-done, the HR Department.  The next candidate is City Plan.  It’s been don’t spend it, don’t borrow it.  Pacetti said that prior administrations have thought, ‘We won’t be here for another five years,’ so they wouldn’t spend the money.”

Ruffolo questioned the remodeling costs, the doors.  Pacetti replied that they’ve spent every year so far, for the Fire Station, and the Assessor’s Office.

Alderperson Jan Michalski wanted to know what the average cost of a real estate acquisition was, and was $40,000 enough.  Pacetti said that this was used for purchasing little pieces of yards, or easements.

The equipment cost jumped in 2013.  Lemens said that this was for a snowplow truck.  The cost also covered two sideloaders for the Waste Division and a transfer trailer.  They are replacing one that was acquired in 1998.  That is a big item in the Public Works budget, $41,000.  It’s a new grader, a pick-up truck, general equipment replacement, also a new minivan for administration’s use.  It always comes out of the budget.  It’s the mayor’s vehicle that gets replaced every four years.  Now, it’s almost eight years that it’s been here.  It’s time.  The older vehicle goes back to the Engineering Division.  Pacetti commented that “they are simply replacing worn-out vehicles, not adding to the fleet.”

Lemens talked about funds for technology and systems, using liquids for de-icing and anti-icing activities.  “It’s cost efficient to apply these liquids before storm events on the streets.  Street superintendent John Prijic and his staff have been researching the new salt brine de-icing system intensely, and they have found it appropriate for our needs,” said Lemens.  Pacetti said that this could cut our salt budget in half.  “It will be a one-year payback,” he said.  “Our salt budget is $400,000 a year.”  Ruffolo asked which other areas use this, and the reply that was given was Beloit, Janesville, McHenry County, Illinois, Franklin, and many out west.  They asked Prijic if he had seen it, and he replied that he had.

Bostrom thanked Lemens for inviting him to a trade show in Milwaukee last spring.  They were able to see a hot mix of asphalt, but he commented that he didn’t see it in the CIP.  Lemens said that, at Prijic’s strong urging, they decided not to go with it.  “We had demo’ed it, and it failed miserably.”  Bostrom thanked them for all of the work they had done on it.  He said that that makes sense, and he was glad that they were being respectful of the taxpayers.

After two hours of discussion, there were no changes to either of the budgets, the executive budget or the CIP budget.  The $8.2 million proposed budget for 2013 is only about $30,000 more than the 2012 estimate.





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