HARRISON — Town Manager George “Bud” Finch shared a snapshot last week of the capital assets inventory he’s creating to help selectmen implement a long-range capital improvement plan.
At the meeting on Thursday, Aug. 27, Finch explained the software program can be utilized by future town managers, selectmen and Budget Committee members in the future. It figures out how much money will be needed for capital needs and projects tax increases associated with building or upgrading facilities, completing projects and purchasing equipment. It also includes information on the total inventory, inventory broken down by department, replacement schedule, replacement cost and asset data.
“The only downside of this program right now is the amount of capital we need. … We are suffering from never funding our capital plan for the wants and needs that we have,” Finch said. “In the five years I’ve been here, we’ve worked on a number of things — the biggest one is catching up.”
He said the town should set aside $300,000 a year to meet its capital needs. All of the money would be put into a single capital reserve fund instead of various smaller funds so that it could be used without having to call a special town meeting.
“You do not know what might break before its life expectancy is over,” Finch said. “If you want to be debt free or close to it, you’ve got to manage your money.”
The presentation wasn’t intended to get Selectmen to decide if the town would purchase any equipment or sign onto any projects that night. Rather, it was to have them look at a long-term policy and plan for the town.
Selectman Matt Frank thanked Finch for the comprehensive report and asked if the town manager could share the three to five biggest projects for the coming year and others through the next five years.
The Fire Department’s Engine 3 is past its life expectancy, Finch answered. It was purchased in 1993 and had a 20-year life expectancy and is now at 22 years. He believes the engine should have been purchased this year and estimated it will cost roughly $400,000 to replace it fully-equipped.
“It’s hard enough to maintain the volunteer fire service as it is because it’s getting less and less fun and more complex and difficult,” Finch said, noting it doesn’t help when the town has old or broken equipment.
Another big project is building a proper facility for the Public Works Department. Finch said it would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to erect such a building. This would extend the life expectancy OF the town’s equipment by 25 percent, which he said would pay for the facility within a few years.
There’s also two or three dump trucks that will need to be replaced soon. And Finch is worried about the town’s parks, including Crystal Lake Park, which has to have some of its docks replaced. Work began three years ago at the Radr Sports Complex to try and update the nearly 20-year-old facility.
“It’s an expensive decision,” Finch said about the future of the complex. “There’s nothing up there that’s typical small town Little League fields. It’s a beautiful sports complex.”
Selectmen Chair Kathy Laplante also commended Finch.
“I think you have us headed on a good path for the town of Harrison and I appreciate that,” she said. “We know what we need to look at. Number one is take care of those trash compactors (at the Transfer Station), the payloader and we know the fire engine is coming.”
She noted the board wouldn’t take any action that week and would wait to revisit the plan again when the entire board was in attendance. Selectman Bill Winslow and Vice Chairman Richard St. John were absent from the meeting.