Capital projects for 2013 will cost Chatham Borough about $758,000, Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano said during a presentation of the capital budget during Monday’s council meeting.
The largest portions of the capital budget will be devoted to engineering – $245,000 for road surfacing and drainage improvements – and $307,000 for public works, which will include installing a generator at the Department of Public Works building.
Falzarano explained the borough’s initiative to install generators in certain buildings throughout Chatham. Borough Hall has one, and one was installed at the fire department last year.
“The DPW is the next critical building where we should have a generator,” Falzarano said. “When you have a long-term event [such as a storm], that facility has to operate.”
Other allocations include more than $65,000 for the police department to replace street signs and its 10-year-old traffic safety truck; $49,000 to upgrade the center portion of the Borough Hall roof; $34,500 in sewer processing projects that include bypass pumps and hoses; nearly $26,000 for fire department projects; $21,600 for Memorial Park Pool; and $10,000 in vehicle maintenance.
Despite the $758,000 projection, Falzarano said the cost of that debt will ultimately be reduced by about $300,000 thanks to Borough Engineer Vincent DeNave’s handling of previous capital projects and the costs of those projects coming in at less than expected. The administrator said the reduced cost of about $458,000 would be the borough’s "lowest debt in years."
Falzarano explained that the council and various departments have put a large emphasis since 2000 on improving the borough’s infrastructure, including updating wells, water tanks and lift stations. He said the borough spent more than $20 million from 2000 to 2009 on capital projects, up from $8 million in the 1990s and $5 millions during the 1980s.
“Going back to 2005, fields and facilities in Chatham were in disrepair,” Councilman Jim Lonergan said. “I give previous councils credit for realizing that Memorial Park and Pool hadn’t been touched in 40 years, even though there had been plans to do so since 1979.”
Now, Falzarano said the key is to continue to maintain Chatham’s critical infrastructure while reducing the borough’s outstanding long-term debt, which will ultimately reduce the overall tax impact on residents.
The administrator displayed a graph projecting dips in debt services in 2013 to 2015 and credits solid planning from the council and the borough’s various departments.
“This is the 2013 capital budget, but all departments are looking at the next several years,” Mayor Bruce Harris said. “We’ve already been doing this for several years. It gives us a really good sense of priorities and what’s coming up.”
Falzarano also said the borough’s surplus will increase this year, a feat he said is difficult for a municipality that – unlike some neighboring towns – maintains taxes for water utilities, parking and leaf collection.
“It demonstrates that you can actually manage things in a very intelligent way to keep the infrastructure sound while dealing with the taxes as much as we can,” Falzarano said.
A PDF copy of Falzarano's presentation can be found in the Photos & Documents portion of this article.