2015-03-12 / Front Page

City Eyes $19 M Capital Plan

By Barry Bridges

Newport councilors have been undertaking their annual review of a recommended capital improvement program (CIP) that identifies potential infrastructure and facilities projects and funding sources over the next five years.

Interim City Manager Joseph Nicholson wrote in an introduction to a lengthy document outlining the projects, “As capital items tend to be more costly than operational expenses, effort is given to developing a long-term plan that identifies immediate repair and upgrade needs, sustained maintenance and protection for ongoing and new capital improvements, and future large-scale expenditures.”

The CIP is for planning purposes only and the details are revisited every year. “This is not a financial or funding recommendation, and is not intended to become a budget document…. The projects are presented because they are needed to protect public health and safety; are in furtherance of strategic goals; or they provide the framework for future projects,” wrote Nicholson.

City Finance Director Laura Sitrin echoed that statement and said that the plan is not binding and is often updated consistent with changes in conditions and emerging priorities.

However, the figures in the CIP are used as a framework in formulating the city’s annual budget.

For the next two fiscal years, the CIP focuses on water and sewer facilities, roadways and sidewalks, ADA accessibility enhancements, traffic signal and public park improvements, cemetery restoration, seawall repairs, fire department building and equipment upgrades, and technological advances.

Nicholson advised that “all projects contemplated by the city, regardless of whether they are listed in the CIP, must be formally authorized and funded before they can proceed.”

The council conducted a second public hearing on the CIP prior to its 6-1 vote to adopt the plan in concept during its meeting on Wednesday, March 11.

The total proposed CIP for Fiscal 2016, which begins on July 1, is over $19.3 million (see accompanying table). Many of these expenditures are related to water and sewer pollution control and infrastructure needs, which are supported through rate paying customers. Other identified funding sources for 2016 include the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Discover Newport, forfeitures, and maritime and parking accounts. Bond proceeds from the approved facilities question on the November ballot also figure into the equation.

The City of Newport also transfers monies from its general revenues each year to support capital expenditures. For Fiscal 2016, the CIP anticipates a general fund contribution of $3.7 million, but it remains to be seen whether that figure will survive the annual budget process.

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